Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) is giving continued support to the county’s response to COVID 19, driving ambulances and assisting with the transfer of the deceased from Northampton General Hospital to the Leys, which is the county’s temporary body storage facility and part of the Local Resilience Forum.
The Government asked the fire service nationally to support this difficult and sensitive work and Northamptonshire firefighters and staff have risen to the challenge, providing many hundreds of hours of help.
Twenty-two NFRS personnel have been trained by East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) to carry out support tasks such as driving Urgent Care vehicles and the safe moving and handling of patients.
Of the 22 firefighters and staff trained, 14 have been carrying out regular shifts, at least once and up to three times a week. Up to four staff each weekday are working at Northamptonshire ambulance stations.
The scheme has been running since the early days of the pandemic and since November 2020, the crews have carried out 146 shifts. They have also assisted with the transfer of around 55 patients each week to hospitals in the region.
The firefighters and fire support staff are all volunteers and are properly protected with the same PPE and the same infection control measures and access to vaccines as their EMAS colleagues who they are supporting. Some of the volunteers are on call firefighters and may have been on furlough from their main employment.
Firefighters have also been assisting with the transfer of the deceased on behalf of the Local Resilience Forum, carrying out this sensitive and challenging role with concern for the families and respect for the dignity of the person who has died.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, firefighters from NFRS have transferred 452 deceased in total, carrying out 40 shifts and giving almost 200 hours of support to this work in the last four weeks alone.
All these additional duties have been carried out alongside the core NFRS role of responding to fire and rescue emergencies – including tackling the severe flooding incident that hit the county at new year.
Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey of NFRS said: “At a time when the NHS in particular is under pressure as never before, I’m pleased and proud that firefighters and staff are at the forefront of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, using their skills to support not only the NHS but also our local resilience forum partners. We are doing everything we can to ensure that what needs to be done to protect the community, is done. The firefighters and staff of Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service are totally committed to playing our part as needed and stand ready to take on any challenge with pride.”
Sadie Nightingale, Head of the Registration Service at Northamptonshire County Council added: “Since April 2020 Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service have been working collaboratively with the NCC Excess Death Cell to deliver the transfer system from the local county Hospitals, to The Leys. Fire Officers and staff have provided this critical and crucial function, which is outside of their normal day to day role, with complete professionalism, and we are very grateful to NFRS for their continued flexibility and support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
NFRS are also working with the Local Resilience Forum to provide and roll out lateral flow tests for firefighters, ensuring that they remain safe and can continue their support to the wider effort to control the pandemic.
Michael Jones, General Manager for Northamptonshire at EMAS said: “Once again, we are incredibly grateful for the support of our colleagues from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service during this time, helping to support our staff and patients who need us the most.”
“For a number of years now, we have worked very closely with NFRS through our Emergency Services Volunteers and so this extra support has built on the great relationship we have with the fire service.”
“A big thank you to all who have again volunteered and stepped forward to help.”