With the pressures on the NHS and the ambulance service due to the rising cases of COVID, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has seen a rise in calls to assist the ambulance service.

This has prompted its Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Dawn Whittaker to add her voice to the call to: ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’.

ESFRS regularly assists the emergency services, including when paramedics are unable to gain entry themselves or helping paramedics remove patients from their homes to ambulances.

The number of calls for this kind of assistance received by ESFRS in December was the highest in two years and it rose by 28% compared with November.

Between April and December 2020, the service saw a 33% increase in calls to assist the ambulance service access domestic properties compared with the same period in 2019.

Earlier this year, five ESFRS firefighters were trained to drive ambulances and to assist qualified medics.

ESFRS staff also delivered 1.8 million items of PPE to various ambulance hubs across Kent, Sussex and Surrey between April and June.

Other activities undertaken by ESFRS to support the community during the pandemic outside of normal duties include supporting the logistics around the Covid testing of lorry drivers at Newhaven Port over the Christmas period and supporting vulnerable people by calling them and offering support and fire safety advice.

CFO Whittaker called for the public to help play their part in combatting the virus saying that: “While local emergency services are pulling hard together to deal with the incidents and issues that arise during the pandemic, we all have limited capacity and are also dealing with increased absences in our own workforces. We completely understand that folks are really fed up with restrictions, but please help to minimise the spread of the virus by staying home to protect the NHS and save lives, until the vaccination programme starts to take effect.”

Mark Eley, Associate Director Operations at SECAmb said: “We would like to thank our colleagues at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and other partner organisations for the ongoing support they have provided SECAmb throughout the pandemic. We continue to face significant pressure on our service and are extremely grateful for the support our fire service colleagues are able to give us at this challenging time.”

SECAmb is urging the public to only dial 999 in the event of a serious or life-threatening emergency, make use of speaking to a GP or pharmacist when it’s not an emergency, and also to seek health advice online at 111.nhs.uk or by calling 111 if you can’t get online.