West Yorkshire’s Firearms Officers are now responding to certain life-threatening medical emergencies at the same time as an ambulance to give patients the best possible chance of survival, thanks to the launch of an innovative scheme.

The joint initiative between Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) and West Yorkshire Police aims to help patients in cardiac or respiratory arrest. The emergency co-responder scheme has been activated 40 times since its introduction on 5 September – and five patients have been successfully resuscitated and transported to hospital with a cardiac output.

Armed officers are routinely deployed on proactive patrol across West Yorkshire which means they may be closer to someone requiring the most urgent medical care than the nearest available paramedic. The officers are already trained to provide life-saving emergency care and carry defibrillators as part of their standard kit.

In line with strict criteria, a team of two Firearms Officers are despatched to patients in cardiac or respiratory arrest at the same time as an ambulance and do not replace the usual emergency medical response from YAS. Their location within local communities means they could be nearer to the scene in those first critical minutes, delivering life-saving care until an ambulance clinician arrives. However, if the armed officers were already deployed to an existing police incident, or a high priority police incident occurs at the same time, they would not be diverted to the ambulance call.

Paul Stevens, Head of Community Resilience for YAS, said: “Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation are undoubtedly the most important steps in the chain of survival and are time critical. We have a responsibility to ensure we explore every available option to improve clinical outcomes for our patients and we are delighted to be working in partnership with West Yorkshire Police on this scheme which has already had a positive impact on patient care. Firearms Officers, who routinely patrol West Yorkshire, already have the skills and equipment, so the collaboration made perfect sense.

“The demand placed upon blue light emergency services increases every year and our approaches to providing the best response and best patient outcomes available are continually evolving. By exploring innovative and alternative ways of working with all partners, together we can ensure our service remains responsive and safe and this will lead to even more lives being saved.”

Armed Response Officers are deployed across the Force area on a daily basis and routinely patrol West Yorkshire, attending both firearms-related calls as well any other appropriate demand. Since the scheme began, the team has achieved a Return of Spontaneous Circulation (the return of cardiac activity with a measurable blood pressure and a palpable pulse) with five patients in cardiac/respiratory arrest, including the first patient they attended.

Superintendent Mark McManus of West Yorkshire Police’s Operations Support section, said: “There is big misconception that armed officers only do something when a call comes in around weapons, and that simply isn’t the case. These are exceptionally well-trained individuals who, as well as being specially trained firearms experts, first and foremost are police officers whose primary instinct and duty will always be to help people.

“As part of their regular and intensive training, firearms officers receive ‘tactical medical training’ in order to offer emergency care in the varied and potentially unique situations they may find themselves attending.

“Our support of YAS is in addition to the standard response of the ambulance service, and is all around the timeliest intervention so more lives can be saved. This isn’t us taking on ambulance calls; this is about using the exceptional training our teams have to make a real difference when they are not attending other emergency police calls. The reality is this may only be a couple of calls a week, but if in doing so they can save lives, it’s undoubtedly a positive thing.

“There are many occasions where our armed teams have given specialist trauma care to victims of the most serious road traffic collisions, or helped keep someone alive who may have attempted self-harm. These medical skills are vitally important and through this fantastic piece of partnership working, they can use these skills to help save the lives of people across the county.

“This new joined up approach is just another example of how we continue to work closely with our blue light partners to give the best possible service to our communities.”

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