Legal concerns stall ‘Maggie’s Call’ roll-out

An initiative that would have seen on-call firefighters respond to cardiac calls alongside the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has been suspended over potential legal concerns.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 7:57 am

Health Minister Robin Swann announced Maggie’s Call last month in memory of five-year-old Maggie Black who died in December 2021 in Carnlough, Co Antrim, after waiting more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive.

Some 20,000 people signed a petition supporting the initiative.

The collaboration between the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service was to see a phased roll-out of on-call firefighters trained to co-respond to incidents in rural areas where someone had suffered a cardiac arrest.

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Handout photo of Health Minister Robin Swann at Carnlough Fire Station, County Antrim with Sheenagh Black and members of the local community with a copy of their petition Maggies Call

Making the announcement last month, Mr Swann had said: “Undoubtedly there is an overlap between the skills and capability of firefighters and the needs of the health bodies in Northern Ireland, including the ambulance service.

“Any potential for firefighters to utilise existing capacity and the skills they hold to secure better health outcomes is worthy of consideration.”

But North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey said the chief fire officer had suspended the roll-out after receiving legal advice.

Responding during health minister questions in the Assembly, Mr Swann said he was aware of correspondence between the chief fire officer in regards to legal issues that had been raised by the Fire Brigades Union in regards to Maggie’s Call.

“It’s unfortunate that it would stall what has been, I think, a very proactive campaign by Maggie Black’s family and a willingness in the Carnlough brigade and the station as well to roll that out as quickly as possible,” he said.

Mr Storey pressed Mr Swann to give an assurance that fire stations would be given adequate training and every resource put in place to ensure no liability to fire officers.

The minister responded: “I can give the member that commitment because this was actually a joint initiative between Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and it was actually the ambulance service that were providing that training and it was specifically for cardiac response.

“That was the boards. The chairs of both organisations working together to make sure that both were satisfied that what was being provided was up to a standard that provided them with the reassurance as boards that they could provide me with that reassurance that they were content with what is the aim of Maggie’s Call, to make sure we can get people seen as quickly as possible.”