Concerned firefighters escorted a woman to hospital after she collapsed in a supermarket and was unable to get an ambulance for over an hour.
Hindley’s fire crew were flagged down outside the Atherton Road Aldi store after a woman fell unconscious inside.
Members of the public ran into the road and signalled the fire engine to stop as firefighters were travelling past on the way back from another job.
Watch manager Mark Anderson said: “We had to follow her to the hospital. We were concerned about her waiting in excess of an hour for an ambulance.
“That was how they graded the call, she was conscious and breathing so there was a response time of an hour.
“On balance we thought it would be better if the husband took her to hospital. It’s a very busy time for the ambulances this year, they are really really stretched. Because we assisted she was triaged by a nurse within 10 minutes.
“It was unfortunate that because she was breathing and conscious, irrespective of whether I think she’s quite poorly or not, that that is all we could do. If we had waited that would have also led to us being tied up for an hour plus because she was our responsibility. This way I could release the fire engine as quickly as I possibly could.”
The crew includes a trauma technician, who has a higher level of medical training than a regular firefighter.
Mr Anderson stressed the fire service is not a replacement for paramedics and that in general, they would not accompany people to hospital.
Health chiefs have already warned of the perils of attending A&E or ringing 999 for non-emergencies, an act which can cause long waits for more serious cases.
Last month Wigan Infirmary was plunged into crisis as A&E waiting times reached 12 hours. People are being urged to stay away unless they have a serious or life-threatening condition.