Lincolnshire firefighters to take patients to hospital
Fire crews in Lincolnshire will be able to take patients to hospital as part of a new pilot to work more closely with the region's ambulance service.
From July Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service will be given their own ambulances to respond to 999 calls.
East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) said the scheme could mean quicker response times and better patient care.
However the fire union says it is worried the scheme could affect local fire cover.
The 12-month project, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, will launch in three towns and could be extended to other parts of Lincolnshire if successful.
Fire service division commander Nick Davies said firefighters had been attending medical emergencies for the ambulance service for 15 years.
But while officers would usually wait for an ambulance to arrive, they would now be able to take patients to hospitals.
"We will attend whichever emergency comes first, whether it's a fire or medical," he said.
"If there is a negative impact on fire cover within those areas, we will look at whether this is a viable way of managing risks within that community."
Last year EMAS was fined £3.5m after it missed response times targets for a third successive year.
EMAS community response manager Steve Pratten said firefighters would be given extra medical training and a 'fast response paramedic' would always go in the ambulance.
He added: "We have previously failed some targets so we are looking at new ways of working to assist us.
"But this is also about quality patient care and getting a patient to hospital in a timely fashion."
Karl McKee, from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: "We do think it is a good idea. It is good for the community and we do think we should be working together."
But he added: "We are after an assurance that fire cover isn't diminished as a result."
Residents will have a chance to have their say on the scheme from Monday.