Fire chiefs reverse ban on firefighters driving ambulances

The Scottish Ambulance Service said it could authorise anyone to drive its vehicles. Picture: John Devlin

Fire chiefs are to reverse their ban on firefighters driving ambulances after the intervention of the head of NHS Scotland.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said it would act “as quickly as possible” to train staff to help out in rural areas.

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It follows a firefighter driving a road crash victim to hospital in Shetland so two paramedics could continue treating him.

The SFRS responded by saying firefighters were not allowed to drive ambulances because they were not trained or insured

NHS chief executive Paul Gray tweeted in response to The Scotsman’s story yesterday about the ban: “I’m discussing with @Chief_SFRS [chief officer Alasdair Hay] - we all want to resolve this quickly.”

The Scottish Government later confirmed the pair were “discussing the issues”.

A spokesman said: “We want to enable our emergency services to be as flexible as possible while still maintaining the levels of safety and care the public depends on.”

SFRS assistant chief officer Lewis Ramsay said: “The safety of our communities and our firefighters is of paramount importance to the service and our operational policies are designed to ensure we deliver this at all times.

“We are committed to working with our unions and our counterparts in the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) to agree national arrangements that will enable local flexibility and delivery.”

The SFRS’s director of response and resilience added: “We are actively seeking meetings to identify how we can now train our personnel to assist the staffing needs of the SAS in rural communities.

“Where a safe solution can be identified, one that also allows the SFRS to maintain critical fire cover in rural communities, we will work towards putting the necessary mechanisms in place - as quickly as possible.”

After the Shetland incident in August, victim John Gold, 50, who suffered multiple injuries including a collapsed lung, said the firefighter had saved his life, and outlawing the practice was “nonsense”.

He said: “What does it have to come to? Does somebody have to die before they realise? The emergency services up here help each other out.

“I heard the ambulance man saying, ‘Is there anyone who can drive the ambulance for us’, because he and the other paramedic had to stay there because there were another three casualties.”

The SAS has said it could authorise anyone with the correct licence to drive its vehicles, who the service would also fully insure.