FIREFIGHTERS in Salisbury are going to be helping relieve pressure on paramedics during the coronavirus outbreak by driving ambulances.

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has invested in additional ambulances for the region, two of which will be based in Salisbury and Swindon with a further two in Dorset.

The ambulances will be driven by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue firefighters who are trained to drive emergency response vehicles and carry out first aid.

They will be transferring patients to and from hospital alongside a clinician and they will also act as first responders for some life-threatening calls with a paramedic.

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said: “It’s good news we have more ambulances coming to Dorset and Wiltshire and I’m grateful to our firefighters for their support. Many of our firefighters are highly trained emergency response drivers, accustomed to dealing with emergency situations and I know they want to help in any way they can during this crisis.

“Agencies are working closely together during the coronavirus outbreak to help keep residents safe, and the collaboration between our fire and rescue service and the ambulance service will ensure our residents get medical care quickly if they need it.

“While we ask the public to stay at home, our firefighters will be able to use their transferable skills to support the ambulance service and the wider community in a variety of challenging roles, so we owe them a debt of gratitude.”

Derek McCullough, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust interoperable capabilities officer, said: “We are delighted about this partnership with fire service colleagues across the South West to support our frontline care of patients. We have invested in 15 additional ambulance vehicles, which have now been allocated to this important partnership initiative.

“The partnership will enable us to make more efficient use of our resources and help us deal with the expected increase in demand over the upcoming weeks. This will mean we are better equipped to reach those patients most in need of our care, and ultimately to save more lives.”

The fire service has also been helping package and deliver food and medication to vulnerable members of the community; construct, fit and train NHS staff in the use of respiratory personal protective equipment (PPE); and testing PPE for ambulance staff.

It is also in the process of looking how it can work with local authorities to provide assistance at temporary mortuary sites for victims of Covid-19.