Wales

Coronavirus: Firefighters become ambulance service drivers

Ambulances
Image caption A pool of trained firefighters will help the ambulance service until at least mid-summer

Firefighters are helping out their emergency service colleagues during the coronavirus pandemic by becoming drivers for the ambulance service.

All three Welsh fire services have provided a pool of drivers who have been trained for the Welsh Ambulance Services Trust (Wast) to draw on.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service staff began the new service at the end of May.

The firefighters will drive "non blue-light" vehicles.

Both North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service are joining the scheme, which is currently agreed between the service heads until 15 July but could be extended until at least the end of August.

Mid and West Wales' chief fire officer Chris Davies said the fire and ambulance services worked in partnership across the community.

"It is only natural for us, therefore, to support Wast and our NHS colleagues during these unprecedented and challenging times, by providing driver resilience through allowing our operational staff to drive non-blue light vehicles on their behalf," he said.

Jason Killens, Wast chief executive, said the service had had to think differently about how it provided services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We've put in a raft of measures to see us through the pandemic, including the redeployment of staff into business-critical parts of the service and enlisting the support of the military, and it was only natural therefore that we also sought the support of our fire service colleagues, with whom we already work closely together," he said.

"The fact that we share a lot of station buildings means it makes sense on a practical level to join forces in the effort, and in particular in the face of a second spike.

"We're grateful to our fire service colleagues for their support."

Similar partnerships have already been running in other parts of the UK.

East of England Ambulance Service partnered with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in April, which provided a pool of 19 volunteers to drive ambulances.

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