LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [8]

Session date: 
December 2, 2015
Question By: 
Valerie Shawcross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Gareth Bacon AM (Chairman, LFEPA) and Ron Dobson CBE QFSM (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, London Fire Brigade)


Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  You mentioned earlier, Commissioner, collaboration with other emergency services and so I just wanted to ask both of you about the co-responding model.  I have seen it operate successfully in rural areas with retained firefighters, but of course the dynamics of serving a very sparse rural community are very different from London.

What is your view on whether or not co-responding is an appropriate model for London at all, both of you?


Answer for LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [8]

Answer for LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [8]

Answered By: 
Gareth Bacon AM (Chairman, LFEPA) and Ron Dobson CBE QFSM (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, London Fire Brigade)

Ron Dobson CBE QFSM (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, LFB):  It is an appropriate model for us to trial in London anyway.  We have been talking about having a pilot to start with to see whether or not it is an appropriate model and whether it is something we should maybe think about for the future.

There is no doubt, going back to the question from Mr Shah, from the staff engagement we have been carrying out with our staff that our staff want do to co-responding.  Almost unanimously across all fire stations, staff have said that we should be doing co-responding.  There is no doubt about that.  We have the defibrillators on the fire engines.  They know how to use them.  There might be some additional training required, but overall we should be doing it.  Our staff accept that. It is the right model for the future.

Some metropolitan areas are already running pilots at the moment.  These arise from the national agreement last year.  The [Greater] Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in particular has a pilot running, as has Birmingham.  We need to see the outcomes of those in terms of the actual detail around it, but certainly my personal preference really is that we should be at least trialling it in London to see whether or not it is a model that can be successful in the future in terms of delivering better outcomes for the patients or the people who need to be defibrillated.  Our staff agree with us.

Gareth Bacon AM (Chairman, LFEPA):  I echo that.  I have been going around and talking to firefighters in stations.  They - not all but overwhelmingly most - have welcomed the idea of getting into co-responding.  The thing that comes back all the time is that they want to be properly trained and they want to have a proper understanding of exactly what they are doing on the co-responding.  The fear is that they will be sent to something that they are not simply trained to deal with and will stand over somebody while they die.  Obviously, the detail of that would be worked out.

The co-responding model would be to go to what they call ‘Red 1 shouts’ - I know you know what that is but other Members may not; it is when a cardiac arrest is possible - and the firefighters would be going to sustain life.  It is not their job to passport them to hospital or anything like that but to sustain life until the LAS can get there and then move the patient to hospital.

The pilot that we are looking at doing would be in four London boroughs in east London where we have the highest proportion of Red 1 shouts so that we can get a proper representative feel for how that will work.  I said in my opening remarks that I am very keen that we make some progress on this with the FBU so that we can actually implement the pilot and get a better understanding in practice of how that would work and how we could support the LAS, with a view to then rolling it out across London.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  It is interesting to do a pilot on it, but I have this feeling that maybe the wrong question is being asked.  Maybe the question should not be whether we could do this and whether the staff accept it.  Maybe the question is, if you want to increase survival rates from heart attacks in London, whether mobilising the LFB would be the answer or whether it would be having a really good, proper, multi-agency strategy to roll out defibrillators and training right across the community into every supermarket, every office and every public building.  It seems to me that that would be a more successful approach to tackling the problem than going first to co-responding.  Certainly we know that where there is widespread and visible availability of defibrillators and people trained - which is not very onerous - survival rates are much better in those environments.

Are we fast-forwarding to maybe the wrong solution when there is a better way of tackling the problem?

Gareth Bacon AM (Chairman, LFEPA):  Personally, I think it is part of the solution, not the total solution.  The total solution is much more along the lines of what you have just outlined, but the LFB can work in a particular way and can be part of that solution.  That is what we are trying to do.

The MPS have embraced this, interestingly.  I saw a press release last week that said that the police are now doing some co-responding shouts with the LAS to support the LAS along the lines of what we are trying to do with the Fire Brigade.  The more partner agencies that can do that the better, as far as I am concerned.  If I were to have a heart attack in the middle of the street, I would not care what uniform - or no uniform - anyone was wearing.  As long as they stayed there and kept my heart going, I really would not give a monkey’s.  However, the LFB has a role to play in this and we should just get on with it.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  It does not ultimately solve the resource problem for the LAS.  It has to mobilise an ambulance anyway.  I would say that I think most Londoners would want to see the LAS well‑resourced and properly run.

Gareth Bacon AM (Chairman, LFEPA):  I am inclined to agree ‑‑

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Also, there is a problem.  A six-minute attendance time is actually too long in order to save the life of somebody in cardiac arrest and so it is only ever going to be of occasional use, I am inclined ‑‑

Gareth Bacon AM (Chairman, LFEPA):  Yes.  It is not a substantial extra burden for the LFB at all and no one is pretending that it is, but every second counts in the case of cardiac arrest and the LFB has the fastest response time of any emergency service.  It does make sense for firefighters to be deployed in that way, but not all firefighters.  We would have to work out the detail of who would do it and how that work out, but it is something that we should be pursuing.