London’s firefighters have been praised for volunteering to drive emergency ambulances during the pandemic, helping the London Ambulance Service (LAS) respond to 165,000 callouts.
Labour’s London Assembly Health Spokesperson, Dr Onkar Sahota AM, thanked the Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade (LFB), Andy Roe, for these blue light collaboration efforts at Thursday’s (10th January) London Assembly Plenary meeting.
Dr Sahota is now calling for Ministers to “recognise these extra demands” being put on the Brigade in the next funding settlement.
Between April 2020 and December 2021, Operation Braidwood saw around 500 London firefighters volunteer to assist paramedics and respond to COVID-19 deaths in the community.
At its height, the London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) ambulance driving programme had 306 firefighters deployed to it at one time.
The Mayor has described it as “one of the most significant blue light collaboration projects London has ever seen”.
This comes despite London having lost over 1,100 firefighters since 2010 due to Government austerity, according to analysis from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
The arrangement between the Brigade and the London Ambulance Service came to an end on 2nd December, but as of October 2021, 56 firefighters were still being dispatched to drive ambulances.
During last week’s meeting, Dr Sahota also raised the issue of operational staff shortages in the Brigade during the height of the Omicron outbreak.
On Christmas Day, 50 fire engines were taken out of action due to staff absences, according to the FBU.
The Commissioner responded to say the Brigade has taken forward lessons from the incident, but that he is confident in its resilience and its ability to maintain response times.
Mr Roe also added that he is in discussions with the Secretary of State to boost the number of specialist fire safety inspection staff to cover the 95,000 medium rise buildings in the capital.
Labour’s London Assembly Health Spokesperson, Dr Onkar Sahota AM, said:
“Our firefighters have gone above and beyond to keep Londoners safe during the pandemic, answering the call of our overstretched ambulance service.
“Blue light collaboration projects of this scale just press the point of why it is so important that the Government properly funds our emergency services.
“Whilst facing the pressures of COVID-19, the Brigade was not just responding to fires, but was also dealing with the building safety crisis and flooding brought on by the climate emergency.
“This all comes despite the fact that the number of firefighters in our capital has dropped by 1,100 since 2010, due to austerity. With the challenges our capital faces, this just isn’t sustainable, and Ministers must recognise these extra demands in the next funding settlement”.
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