Fire Brigades Union press release
16 April 2020
For immediate release
Coronavirus: Firefighters now allowed to carry out antigen tests
Firefighters across the UK could support the delivery of COVID-19 testing, including taking samples for antigen tests, in the latest agreement between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), fire chiefs and fire service National Employers. After appropriate training, firefighters will be able to carry out swab tests on other fire and rescue personnel, their families, and the wider public if necessary.
The update to the national agreement will now allow firefighters to drive ambulances to non-emergency outpatient appointments and to transport those in need of urgent care. Firefighters can also begin training non-emergency service personnel to drive ambulances to aid the coronavirus response.
It follows an agreement last week between the union, fire service National Employers, and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), which has allowed firefighters to fit face masks and deliver vital PPE and medical supplies to NHS and care staff.
Firefighters have already begun driving ambulances, delivering food and medicines to vulnerable people, and moving dead bodies in some areas, after an initial agreement was reached on 26 March.
The FBU warned earlier this week that around 3,000 fire and rescue personnel were already in self-isolation due to coronavirus. The union says NHS and care staff are a priority but that testing must also be urgently made available to fire and rescue personnel.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:
“While the government is lagging behind its own schedule to deliver testing, the number of tests that have long been promised may require assistance from outside of the NHS and we are here to help.
“Firefighters are highly skilled and are able to take on new areas of work to assist in these extraordinary times – and this now includes carrying out antigen tests, driving ambulances to non-emergency incidents, and training other personnel to drive ambulances.
“We’ve raised our concerns about the government’s mishandling of coronavirus testing and the impact it is already having on frontline services. Fire and rescue personnel are now able to assist in the national testing which is so urgently required.”
Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer
078 2563 5224
Tom Colclough, FBU head of communications
FBU press office
Notes for editor
- The full latest agreement is available online here: https://www.fbu.org.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/Tripartite%205%20statement%2016%20April%202020%20Tri-5.pdf
- The FBU agreed an initial framework with the NFCC and National Employers for fire and rescue services’ response to the coronavirus outbreak, which will see firefighters assist ambulance services, drive ambulances, deliver food and medicines to vulnerable people, and move bodies, in the case of mass casualties: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/03/27/covid-19-firefighters-deliver-food-and-medicines-drive-ambulances-and-retrieve
- A further agreement reached last week will see fire and rescue personnel fit face masks for frontline NHS and clinical care staff and deliver medical supplies to hospitals and care facilities during the coronavirus outbreak: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/10/firefighters-fit-face-masks-and-deliver-vital-ppe-and-medical-supplies-nhs-and-care
- Firefighters in the West Midlands have already begun moving bodies of those who have died from coronavirus: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/16/west-midlands-firefighters-begin-moving-coronavirus-bodies
- The FBU has called for coronavirus testing for fire and rescue staff, as there are around 3,000 fire and rescue personnel in self-isolation: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/13/3000-fire-and-rescue-personnel-coronavirus-isolation-services-pay-price-testing
- The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the professional and democratic voice of firefighters and other workers within fire and rescue services across the UK. The general secretary is Matt Wrack
- The FBU is on Twitter: @fbunational and Facebook: facebook.com/FireBrigadesUnion1918