A FIRE service has won a prestigious award for its work in sending firefighters to rush to the scene of medical emergancies to provide vital care before an ambulance can arrive on the scene.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue was selected at a ceremony from a shortlist of four nominations in the Strategic Risk category of the annual awards organised by public risk management association Alarm.

The nomination - for innovation and excellence in public service risk management - came in recognition of the ambulance co-responder scheme currently being run in partnership with South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

Co-responders are specially-trained firefighters who are dispatched by South Central Ambulance Service’s Emergency Operations Centre to a range of medical emergencies to provide life-saving treatment ahead of paramedics.

The co-responders do not replace emergency ambulances, but can give early medical treatment until an ambulance arrives.

Co-responding has been running in the area served by Great Missenden Fire Station since June 2011, and is now being trialled at Amersham/Chesham, High Wycombe and Marlow.

In the past four months, firefighters from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service have attended almost 700 medical emergencies, as well as nearly 2,000 fire and rescue incidents.

The fire service says the availability of fire engines is not affected, as firefighters use a purpose-built co-responder car supplied by South Central Ambulance Service.

Speaking before this evening's award ceremony in Manchester, Chief Operating Officer Jason Thelwell said: "We are committed to making Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes the safest places in England in which to live, work and travel.

"By engaging in schemes such as co-responding, and collaborating with our partner agencies through innovative approaches to managing and reducing risk, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and its staff are demonstrating their commitment to achieving this vision.

"To be shortlisted for this award highlights the importance of what we are aiming to achieve, and gives real recognition to those who are making the scheme a success."