As St John in Guernsey increases its focus on providing pre-hospital medical care and support, in line with the changing health demands in the island, the Board and Commandery of St John have now taken the decision to cease the Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) service from the end of the summer.
The announcement comes as the RNLI confirms it will begin a two year trial of a B Class Inshore Lifeboat based in St Peter Port later this year.
The decision by St John follows a recent review and is part of the future vision for the organisation, which looks at core activities such as the Emergency Ambulance Service, Medical Event Cover, the Health Care Shop, Patient Transport, First Aid Training and Youth work. It also allows for development of community services in the future.
The Guernsey Harbour Master and the Guernsey Coastguard have been consulted as part of the St John review and conversations about the need for future provision of IRBs have been ongoing since early 2017. The RNLI has also carried out an independent review during this time.
Head of Port Operations, Jerome Davis said “Guernsey Coastguard continues to recognise and value the Inshore Rescue capability provided by St John and its volunteers. As part of continuous review and development, we are always assessing the service and capability we have available to ensure maritime safety within our waters. We have been working with both St John and representatives of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to determine what future capability is required for our waters, based on a collaborative approach to assessment and evidence review.
Mr Davis added “With a relatively low number of incidents and following a risk assessment I have no concerns about St John ceasing the IRB service. We have a legal responsibility to coordinate search-and-rescue operations in Guernsey’s territorial waters and will therefore continue to work with existing SAR partners, both volunteer and full time to give the most appropriate provision of search and rescue coverage for the Island.”
Mr Andrew Henton, Knight Commander for the Commandery of St John said “As a charity we need to adapt to the growing demands on our services and focus our resources and charitable assets on emergency healthcare and first aid activities. The number of call outs for the IRB team is relatively low and the boats are rarely used. In recent years, the St John IRB Team has moved away from being provided by employed ambulance personnel to a team of specialised volunteers. They have been supported by specially trained clinicians who, in the event of a casualty needing medical treatment on the shoreline, rocks or cliff, have worked alongside the IRB crew who are performing the rescue. We anticipate St John clinicians will continue working with the RNLI and Guernsey Coastguard in the future as part of the collaborative efforts between the ambulance service and maritime rescue services”.
Mr Henton added “I would like to thank all the volunteers and staff who have been part of the IRB team”.
Liam Krige, the RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager for the Channel Islands said, “We have worked alongside the excellent St John Ambulance volunteers and are grateful for their steadfast support. After analysing local data and consultation with search and rescue partners, the RNLI has made the decision to begin our two-year trial of an inshore lifeboat based in the port later this year. The RNLI has already been based on Guernsey since 1861 and currently operates a Severn class all-weather lifeboat out of St Peter Port. The Spirit of Guernsey carries its own small rigid inflatable boat which is ideal for rescues near rocks and shallow waters.”
The St John Inshore Rescue Boats will cease at the end of August.