HAMPSHIRE firefighters are being given a higher level of medical training than ever before to help them save more lives at the scenes of incidents they attend.

The introduction of the immediate emergency care project has seen crews being given new packs of equipment and training.

All frontline vehicles are being kitted out with defibrillators, Entonox, and monitoring and major haemorrhage control equipment.

It follows Surrey’s roll out of similar equipment and training to all fire crews last year.

Group manager Rob Cole, who oversees the Fire as a Health Asset project for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The immediate emergency care is a major step forward in saving the lives of people in the county. We are not paramedics but we are often the first on the scene at incidents requiring medical intervention.

“A firefighter who has been medically trained to a high level and is armed with the right equipment can be the difference between life and death.

“We will deal with a casualty until the arrival of an ambulance at which point we would hand on the medical care to the paramedics as they have a greater level of clinical expertise.

“There can be no doubt that giving our firefighters enhanced training and additional equipment will save lives.”

There are numerous other projects group manager Cole is in charge of which help protect the public including the co-responders scheme which has been run in partnership with South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) for 12 years.

Firefighters who act as co-responders are trained by the ambulance service and now go to about 13,000 medical calls a year in dedicated response vehicles and have saved countless lives.

The team has also established the safety through education and exercise for resilience course which helps reduce the chances of falls among elderly people. Qualified trainers help pensioners get fit using everyday activities such as packing away shopping and going to make a cup of tea.

The project has been proven to reduce the chances of a fall by about 20 percent.

The service has also launched the A Better Me course which promotes healthy living among young people.

Through firefighter-related activities and fun outings crews teach children about exercise and nutrition, and help build their confidence.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service work with the NHS, SCAS, Public Health, clinical commissioning groups and other medical authorities in designing the health projects it is involved in.