North East leading the way with trauma support for frontline firefighters

Frontline firefighters in Tyne and Wear are benefitting from a ground-breaking new scheme, which sees them being trained in first aid and trauma support by a leading North East paramedic educator

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) have teamed up with the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) in a scheme believed to be the first of its kind in England.

It has seen paramedic educator, Phil Barlow, who has 15-years frontline experience being seconded to the brigade to provide trauma first aid training to fire crews, who may be first on the scene to an emergency.

Over the past six-months the instructor from NEAS has been working with firefighters from across 17-community fire stations, staff from Service Headquarters in Barmston Mere, and with new recruits.

In total, the NEAS instructor has delivered twelve training packages since November to over 100 members of staff, and between now and October of this year a further 16 courses are being scheduled that will be presented to 200 additional firefighters and managers across TWFRS.   

It is believed to be the first time a paramedic has been seconded to work alongside firefighters in a bid to ensure crews can respond as effectively as possible. 

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Lynsey McVay, said: “We are proud of the bond and association that we have with our fellow blue light organisations in the region.  This connection is perfectly represented with the partnership trauma support training programme currently being delivered alongside our colleagues at the North East Ambulance Service.

“The knowledge being passed on to TWFRS staff and crews is invaluable, as it can be used in a variety of different ways.  From frontline crews acting as first responders at the scene of an incident - who can use these vital skills to assess and treat casualties ahead of the paramedics arriving at the scene. 

“Through to our new recruits gaining expert tuition as part of their training course that will enable them to have this experience in their armoury for when they qualify and help to protect and serve the local community.

“We recognised the need for this kind of skills based training programme that could help develop and nurture the trauma and first aid capabilities of our staff.  It’s a credit to the partnership between TWFRS and NEAS to forge this affiliation that can be recognised and applauded on a national platform.”

Karen Gardner, Head of Workforce Development at North East Ambulance Service, said: “The intention of the programme is to provide a key link between NEAS and TWFRS, ultimately improving relationships and multi-agency working between the two services. 

“This will also allow a standardised approach to patient care as TWFRS are being taught by an operational paramedic educator - who has years of frontline service and experience. 

“The course is a combination of theory and practical scenarios with the end result seeing firefighters having the technical attributes to treat and begin essential treatment of casualties at the scene of an incident in preparation for the arrival of ambulance crews.  It also ensures the protection and safety of emergency service personnel as they enter incident situations.

“There has been a great response to the education and development role with very positive feedback from TWFRS staff and crews.  We look forward to continuing this partnership and watch it grow over the coming years.”

The original premise of the partnership was to introduce into the heart of TWFRS the expertise of an experienced NEAS clinical practitioner, who could assess the education and development needs of the Fire Service, and to then design, develop and deliver an innovative evidence based training package to be rolled out as part of the Training Centre programme. 

The instructor teaches elements of trauma and first aid at work (FAAW) training, which builds upon the existing knowledge of each individual. The course uses our training centre which includes the impressive onsite USAR (Urban Search And Rescue) training facilities.  This is used in addition to other scenario set ups including: RTC (Road Traffic Collision), a pylon location that recreates falling from a height, a metro transport incident, and a confined space (collapsed building).      

“AT A GLANCE”:

Over the past year [16 May 2021 to 16 May 2022] our crews attended 17,874 incidents across Tyne and Wear, and out of those incidents, TWFRS firefighters treated and assessed *847 casualties at the scene.

* 847 is broken down in to…220 persons were given first aid at the scene; 356 persons went to hospital with injuries appearing to be slight; 133 persons went to hospital with injuries appearing to be serious; and 138 persons were recommended to have a precautionary check-up.

There is currently a five-year contract in place between TWFRS and NEAS to deliver the education and development programme that promises to nurture and maintain the relationship between the two North East blue light organisations.

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