AMBULANCES are to be stationed at fire stations across Merseyside in the latest evidence of a closer relationship between the two services.
Mersey Regional Ambulance Service has made a successful request to take up spare capacity at five stations in the region.
They have been identified uas key strategic points for the deployment of ambulances to improve response times.
At the moment the sites are not near any of the 35 ambulance stations owned by the service - hence the desire to share space in fire stations.
The five stations to be included in the project will be Allerton and Belle Vale in Liverpool, West Kirby and Upton in Wirral, and Eccleston near St Helens.
The official request by Janet Davies, chief executive of Mersey Ambulance, was considered by Merseyside Fire Authority last week, and approved unanimously.
Cllr Eddie Clein, leader of the fire authority's Lib Dem group, said: "This is something we strongly support. It represents a real opportunity to positively benefit the community. It is something which will be copied across the region."
Ambulance staff will be able to use rest, wash and kitchen facilities at the fire stations.
Fellow Lib Dem, Cllr Jack Colbert, said: "I've spoken to paramedics who have to sit in vehicles in laybys: that is an embarrassment to this country."
Fire Service spokesman Alex MacDougall said: "We don't own these fire stations, they are owned by the people of Merseyside.
"Many have extra bays and if they can be used for the benefit of the community, we're happy to be involved."
The ambulance service is currently involved in a major review of how best to provide emergency cover across Merseyside and Cheshire.
They are supposed to reach 75% of calls where lives are in danger within eight minutes and 95% within 14 minutes.
Mike Barker, spokesman for Merseyside Regional Ambulance Service, said: "At the moment we're looking at a fundamental change in how we actively deploy vehicles.
"We've approached several agencies about using their premises and we're delighted we've got the support of the fire service.
"We are using computer software with predictive analysis which looks at historical demand and can show the percentage chance we have of getting a call from certain places at certain times of the day.
"For example if we know that during the day most of the 3,000 homes in Croxteth Country Park are empty then why have a vehicle in that area? It is better to place it in an area where we know we have a greater chance of a call."
Mr Barker reassured the public the new bases were not evidence of a reduction in stations.
"We've never closed an ambulance station. But we've also not reviewed our estate since 1991 and things have changed dramatically since then," he said.
"Our view is that the bricks and mortar of an ambulance station are not that important. What's important is the level of cover.
"This is about making sure the level of cover meets the level of demand in the most efficient way. We can't just build another 50 ambulance stations, there isn't the money and it would be a waste of resources."
As well as the five fire stations, an ambulance is to be based at Pontins Holiday Resort in Ainsdale from July to serve Formby, Southport and the surrounding area.
Bob McGowan, clinical manager for the area, said: "Following work with Pontins we estimate it will take no longer than 30 seconds to get the vehicle out to a call.
"This is much quicker than the current facilities at Formby and Southport and more importantly it also means we have a base from which to deploy within the Ainsdale area.
"This can only have significant benefits for patients."
The agreement with Pontins involves an apartment being designated for ambulance crews to use as a base.
Pontins service manager John Bowler said: "It is fantastic news that Pontins can play a role in this innovative development and we were only too pleased and happy to get involved.
"Naturally, there are also obvious benefits to the resort in having a more visible ambulance presence to our guests."