Efforts to turn firefighters into ambulance workers could be deadly, warns union
PLANS to use firefighters as emergency ambulance crews will “put lives at risk,” union reps warned yesterday amid Tory cries to go even further.
Fire chiefs in South Yorkshire have agreed to make staff available to step in when the Yorkshire Ambulance Service is understaffed.
But only 229 of the brigade’s 640 firefighters have any training in initial emergency care, meaning many officers would be unable to help patients in desperate need.
But Tory MP Richard Fuller has called for a merger of ambulance and fire response services across the eastern England.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during an opposition day debate on the NHS, Mr Fuller urged Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham to support his proposal.
The Bedford MP said “a combined force might be in a better position to provide quicker response times.”
Mr Burnham rejected the suggestion, saying ambulance services should instead be more strongly integrated with other parts of the NHS.
And some in the Fire Brigades Union fear that firefighters’ right to strike could be attacked under the Tory merger plans.
In Lincolnshire, where a pilot scheme has already seen fire brigades respond to ambulance calls, firefighters said this week that responding to health emergencies had prevented them from carrying out rescue duties.
“In the time we have been doing it, we have missed two fire calls, one to an animal stuck in a ditch and the other a medical emergency,” firefighter Richard King told the BBC.
Reps in Yorkshire said proposals put their members “in an ethical and moral dilemma.”
South Yorkshire FBU secretary Neil Carbutt said: “The public are being put at risk because of cuts to staff, resources and equipment in both the NHS and the fire and rescue service.
“We believe the public shares our view that the ambulance service needs to be staffed by highly trained paramedics.”
Registration change hits student vote
Just 22 of the 6,500 students at Lancaster campus are registered
by Luke James
THE TORIES could cling on in marginal seats after controversial voter registration changes sparked a “shocking” slump in student sign-ups, Labour candidate Cat Smith said yesterday.
The candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood said changes rushed through by Deputy PM Nick Clegg “could be the difference between winning and losing” the seat, which is number nine on the party’s target list.
Her warning comes after it was found that just 22 of the 6,500 students living on Lancaster University’s campus registered to vote in May’s crucial general election.
The figures released by Lancaster Council this week are the starkest sign yet that the government’s introduction of individual voter registration could curb turnout.
And Labour’s parliamentary hopeful predicted the changes could help save sitting Eric Ollerenshaw and other Tory MPs.
Ms Smith hopes to make Mr Ollerenshaw, who voted to increase tuition fees in 2010, a one-term Tory by overturning his wafer-thin 333 majority in May.
But she told the Star: “You’re talking about thousands of students who are no longer registered in a seat where the Tories won by 300 in 2010.
“That could be the difference between a Labour majority.”
Until now, most students living on campus were automatically registered to vote by their universities, which acted as their “head of household.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman insisted yesterday that replacing the “outdated” head of household registration system would make the process “fit for the 21st century.”
Ms Smith, who has this week been on Lancaster’s campus trying to register more students, said though that “extra hoops” are making it harder for students and other people renting homes.
“It’s almost going back to the bad old days when only land owners could vote,” she said.
“You’re not banned from voting if you rent but they make it so hard that you’ll find people are falling off the register.”
Her comments echo a speech made by Labour leader Ed Miliband in Mr Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency last week, in which he warned the “hasty” switch had left Britain with one million “missing” voters.