11:53AM, Tuesday 26 January 2016
Royal Borough leader David Burbage has called on firefighters, paramedics and police to perform each other's jobs.
Writing on the Conservative Home website, the Conservative councillor for Bray and Royal Borough leader asks 'why we can't cross-train all emergency services personnel, all paid for by the public, to do as much as they possibly can when attending to the public need'.
"Why can't the police and firefighters be trained to perform as many paramedic services as possible?
"Why can't ambulance personnel and police be trained to operate the equipment on a fire engine?
"Can't firefighters be trained as special constables, and as community first responders, and attend events and incidents in conjunction with colleagues from other services?"
Cllr Burbage, a member of the Berkshire Fire Authority, said on Twitter he wrote the blog before he knew Government minister for policing and fire, Mike Penning, would announced plans for Police and Crime Commissioners to oversee the appointment of an officer responsible for hiring and firing of both fire and police staff. Mr Penning's proposals were revealed today.
In December, South Central Ambulance Service revealed its concern over its failure to reach at least 75 per cent of 'red' category life-threatening calls within eight minutes.
A spokesman for Unison, which represents ambulance staff, said In December that work pressures were leading to a high staff turnover and morale was at an 'all-time low'.
He said: "Staff are leaving due to the unending pressures of work. Shifts more often than not overrun making a 12-hour shift a 13-hour shift."
Update (2.14pm): Fire and ambulance union representatives have slammed Cllr Burbage's blog post.
Cllr Burbage's comments have been branded 'insulting' by the Fire Brigades Union's branch secretary for Berkshire, Steve Collins.
Mr Collins said: "I'd say, in the least, we are not impressed really.
"What we'd suggest is Cllr Burbage, as a member of the fire authority, should spend some time visiting firefighters and fire stations to learn the complex and demanding training required to carry out the professional role of a firefighter.
"Also, it's a lack of respect for the professional jobs that paramedics and police officers carry out. They're three unique careers, all requiring different skills.
"It's insulting to all three services that Cllr Burbage believes that one person can carry out three roles.
"All three services are suffering from Tory party austerity already. How would Cllr Burbage suppose more is done with less, with three services that are struggling already to maintain the services we all provide with the budget cuts?"
Gavin Bashford is a South Central Ambulance Service paramedic, and a Unison branch secretary.
He said: "I think it's obviously written by someone that has no idea of the roles of a paramedic, police officer or firefighter, to be honest."
Mr Bashford said integrating duties would lead to a conflict of interest, and gave the example of a paramedic attending to a drug overdose.
He said a 'huge degree of trust' in the services would be eroded if they combined roles.
Mr Bashford said: "Do we try to save a life or try to arrest someone for a crime?"
He added: "There's also so much specialist training involved in all of the three roles. We'd have to triple the number of staff going forward because everyone would spend so much time training.
"There's the cost of equipment, we have three different uniforms, stab-proof and bulletproof vests for police, firefighters have fireproof equipment.
"Any response would automatically be slowed down because we'd have to be changing uniforms."
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