LIVES could be saved if firemen are allowed to treat people who suffer heart attacks at the scene, according to a leading fire inspector.


Steven Torrie, the chief inspector within the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), has said they should be entrusted to carry out emergency medical care.

His proposals mirror the procedures in Seattle where 40 per cent of those who suffer a heart attack in the street are saved, largely due to intervention from the fire service.

Comparatively, the survival rate for Scotland is four per cent - one of the worst in Europe.

Mr Torrie argued that due to their fire crews are more community-based, meaning they would be able to attend cardiac arrests quicker than ambulances 'nine times out of ten'.

He said: "[Firefighters] are trained and they can be trained further. They have hundreds of defibrillator devices between them and they could contribute in a big way.

"The process is straightforward but it could make a big difference to Scotland's health."

He added: "We are prepared to speak, and are speaking, to the fire service about looking at all the issues properly before we roll out the cardiac arrest service."

Scottish ministers announced plans to save 1,000 lives from out-of-hospital heart attacks by 2020. They are to equip a further 500,000 with CPR skills and provide more random access defibrillators.

However, Stephen Thomson, of the Fire Brigades Union, warned that if allowed to assist paramedics then firefighters could be faced with medical emergencies beyond their training.

He said: "I was given the anecdotal example of a crew that was turned out for a call that they realised was not for a cardiac arrest but for a diabetic coma.

"Firefighters are not trained for that and do not have the expertise to deal with it. Those issues need to be looked at."