September 2015 saw the launch of a ground-breaking initiative in Greater Manchester, whereby North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) dispatches Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service (GMFRS) crews to suspected cardiac arrests. A year on, the project has been hailed a success receiving positive feedback from crews from both agencies, as well as the patients who have benefited from the scheme.
In the last year, GMFRS has attended 2,357 suspected cardiac arrest scenes alongside ambulance staff. To a bystander, this might look like an excessive number of people but everyone has an important role to play.
Incidents of cardiac arrest are extremely complex, and treatment doesnâ€™t just involve CPR and the use of a defibrillator. Where a cardiac incident is suspected, NWAS sends at least four clinicians to the scene because of the number of procedures required for effective treatment and with the assistance of GMFRS, additional help is at hand.
Consultant Paramedic, Dan Smith comments: â€œThere may only be one patient in incidents such as this, but a large team is required, not only to deal with the clinical elements, but we also need to support any relatives who are present and are literally watching their loved ones fight for their lives.
â€œFire crews on scene can provide the essential basic life support for the patient by providing CPR and using a defibrillator, allowing NWAS clinicians to manage other elements of patient care, such as advanced airway management and the administration of intravenous drugs.â€
NWAS staff have reported that having fire crews with them in these life-threatening situations gives them additional support and is of great benefit to the patient and their families. Fire crews have also reported that they feel their help is appreciated and there is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that they may have played a part in saving a life.
In Greater Manchester, the ambulance service receives approximately ten emergency calls for suspected cardiac arrests per day and utilising the skills of trained firefighters undoubtedly can improve the outcome for many of those patients.
Dan adds; â€œThe chances of survival from cardiac arrest diminish rapidly with every passing second so the sooner someone can receive treatment, the greater their chances are of leading a full and healthy life afterwards. It doesnâ€™t matter who gives that treatment â€“ whether it is a member of the public, an ambulance crew or a fire crew so the more resources that are available to respond, the better for those who suffer this potentially devastating condition.â€
Chair of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, David Acton said: â€œOur collaboration with NWAS has been a phenomenal success story in helping to save the lives of people in Greater Manchester.
â€œResidents can be safe in the knowledge that this approach means help which greatly improves the chance of survival for those that suffer a cardiac arrest.
â€œLonger term, we are working on a strategy to teach everyone in Greater Manchester young and old, lifesaving CPR skills â€“ I would encourage everyone to get involved and help form a community of lifesavers.â€