FIREFIGHTERS across Hampshire have begun driving ambulances as part of a "life-saving initiative".

Employees of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have volunteered to be redeployed to South Central Ambulance Service to help save lives.

They will be redeployed for four weeks initially, to support the efforts of the health service in tackling coronavirus.

Firefighters in Hampshire were also redeployed to the ambulance service during the first lockdown.

It comes after The Gazette reported how SCAS had urged people to only call 999 in an emergency after a high number of calls over the Christmas period.

A spokesperson for HFRS said that the move was in response to the current spike of cases that has seen the country put into a third national lockdown.

"The current spike in cases has put severe pressure on our critical services, particularly in health and social care settings," they said.

"Despite teams across SCAS working tirelessly to reach communities across Hampshire, they have had to request additional support to cope with demand at this time."

Last week, it was announced that Basingstoke Fire Station would be a Covid vaccination hub.

Assistant Director of Operations, Area Manager Dan Tasker said, “These volunteers are the definition of everyone playing their part in the fight of COVID-19. I am so proud to see our teams playing a key role in protecting the local community.

“I want to extend a huge thank to all those who have already volunteered their time and skills during this crucial time.

“HFRS are ready, willing and able to support our NHS colleagues wherever we can.”

Paul Jefferies, Assistant Director of Operations for South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said, “We are incredibly grateful to our partners in HFRS for their help and support during COVID-19.

“We currently have a small but growing number of firefighters from our local areas (Hampshire, Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire) assisting us. These are predominantly firefighters who were trained in Spring 2020 to be able to drive our ambulances under emergency conditions and are also IEC trained so that they can be directed by and assist the clinician at the scene of an emergency.

“Currently there are under 20 firefighters deployed across our region and we anticipate a further 20 will be deployed over the coming weeks; this is to support our 1,900 strong frontline workforce at these particularly challenging times. Our colleagues in the fire service will be working alongside our expert SCAS staff, driving our ambulances and assisting us in getting to those patients who really need our help, support and clinical treatment.

“Fire service colleagues have undergone driver training delivered by our SCAS teams but this will build on the skills they already have to help support local communities; many of whom are already co-responders in their local areas.

“This is a great opportunity to build on our joint-working relationships and also will provide a fabulous opportunity for SCAS and HFRS to learn from each other. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners for their assistance during this time as we work together to care for our communities and of course, our patients.”