Tony Arbour is a member of the London Assembly
It is an idea that has been explored within the fire service, and a trial will soon take place assessing the practicalities of firefighters responding to medical emergencies.
Given that the future of the capital’s emergency teams could lay in co-responding, it seems like a sensible time to consider the role of those on the front line – in particular the role of the PCSO.
PCSOs total 1,667 in London and within these community-based ‘eyes on the ground’ is an opportunity for improving the capital’s emergency response capabilities.
My latest report, Tri-Service: Broadening the role of London’s PCSOs, suggests providing fire safety and first-response medical training to this band of community officers.
It also recommends that boroughs hand over services such as local authority enforcement and trading standards to PCSOs who are already active in the community.
These new features for our community officers have the potential to provide substantial benefits.
According to LFEPA stats, fire home safety checks carried out by the London Fire Brigade prevented over 4,500 fires between 2006 and 2012.
PCSOs are central to the communities in which they work and this local knowledge could help them identify homes and businesses in need of this advice –broadening the reach of an important service.
Officers already receive some medical training and it is common for them to use these skills whilst they are on duty.
It seems sensible therefore to extend this training to enable PCSOs to provide the same level of first aid administered by a First Responder.
This would involve skills such as deploying a defibrillator or performing CPR – critical attributes for professionals who are very often first on scene in a time-sensitive emergency.
I am not talking about replacing roles within the fire service or NHS. This is about providing practical and cost-effective assistance to our burdened emergency services.
By empowering our PCSOs with these additional skills, we are adding an additional first-response option for patients in need.
Response times are of major importance in time-sensitive emergencies and having more officers on the ground with vital first aid expertise can only be of benefit.
The cost of adding these skills is effectively neutral as the necessary training is already being conducted across London for the relevant emergency services.
We simply need to get our PCSOs on board these pre-existing courses and modules.
I am calling for trials across various London boroughs to assess the practicality of PCSOs possessing these additional skills.
I would also like to see the Mayor of London working with local authorities to consider how PCSOs can assist and take over local authority enforcement and Trading Standards.
The demands on London’s emergency services are sure to grow and shift over the coming years.
By equipping our emergency services with the right skills, we can be sure they are ready to adapt to these challenges.