Firefighters in Wiltshire were called to fewer medical emergencies last year, despite concerns that crews across the country are increasingly having to step into the role of paramedics.

The latest Home Office statistics revealed Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service crews responded to 39 non fire-related incidents in 2018-19.

This was a huge drop from 2010- 2011, the earliest period for which data is available, when there were 1,137 cases. But the number of calls across the country increased by 77 per cent over the same period, reaching a total of 19,900 cases last year.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said any increase to firefighters’ workloads should include a significant increase in their pay, along with appropriate training.

He said: “Firefighters are there to keep their communities safe from fire and other hazardous emergency incidents.

“While there may be occasions when firefighters are required to attend medical emergencies, they are not doctors, paramedics, nurses, or social carers - and nor should they be.

“Firefighters are overstretched and underpaid, and services are under-resourced.”

The number of call-outs peaked at 45,700 in 2016-17, a year after emergency medical response trials were introduced that saw fire crews sent out to medical emergencies alongside paramedics.

The Fire Brigades Union withdrew from the scheme in 2017, but firefighters are still responding to far more medical incidents than before it began.

In Wiltshire firefighters have answered emergency calls as co-responders with the aim of preserving life until paramedics arrive.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Fire Brigades Union has since instructed their members to withdraw from the trials and as a result, some of this work has now stopped.”

At the time the FBU withdrew from the trial, the National Fire Chiefs Council said it was very disappointed with the decision. An NFCC spokeswoman said the Policing and Crime Act 2017 still required emergency services to collaborate, which could account for the increase in incidents.

She added: “All fire and rescue services have their own risk plans to ensure communities are kept safe, and resources, such as fire appliances and firefighters, are always available to meet their emergencies.”

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire service was approached for comment but was unable to respond before the Adver went to press.