Coronavirus: Firefighters being trained to drive ambulances

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image captionJosh Matthews is among the firefighters to have volunteered to help the ambulance service

Training firefighters to drive ambulances means more can be on the roads to deal with coronavirus patients, ambulance bosses say.

Nineteen crew members from Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service have been trained to volunteer for the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST).

Their help will mean three more ambulances are available to patients in the county from Monday.

Firefighter Josh Matthews said crews felt a "social responsibility".

"The guys in the fire and rescue service are doing a lot anyway but we've got some transferable skills and we just wanted to do as much as we could do to help," he added.

image captionFirefighters are refreshing their first aid training as part of the scheme

EEAST has launched a drive to find 1,000 new staff as it seeks to bolster its workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Firefighters are being paired up with paramedics to drive the vehicles as they have experience of blue-light emergency responses and of traumatic situations.

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Simon King from EEAST said new recruits were needed as traditional staffing was "never going to be enough" during a time of pandemic.

He said some were recently retired staff, some were volunteer community first responders, and others had different healthcare backgrounds.

"Where we can use them, either in ambulances or support roles, then we will do that," said Mr King.

Concerns have been raised at the lack of personal protective equipment for ambulance staff, but fire service bosses said they were "confident" their staff would be safe.

"Emergency service workers are from time to time in harm's way - that's the nature of the work," said Paul Fuller of Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

"But of course we are doing everything we can to make them as safe as we possibly can, and I'm confident we have the resources and the means to do that."

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