AN ELDERLY dementia sufferer who fell in a ditch is one of the first people helped by a pioneering new partnership between firefighters and police.

She was rescued as part of a scheme which will see the blue light services join forces to search for high-risk missing people.

The six-month pilot, between Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Hampshire Constabulary, will involve St Mary’s Fire Station and cover the police operations across the whole of Southampton.

The collaborative project is a UK first and if successful could be extended to include medium-risk missing persons and get rolled out across the county and beyond.

Through the two control rooms, police will be able to deploy the services of firefighters to help find people who are at risk themselves or considered a possible risk to others.

As the details of the new initiative were being put together, two high-risk missing people were found by firefighters and police within minutes of a search being launched, including an elderly woman with dementia who had fallen into a ditch.

The other was a semi-conscious woman in her 30s who was considered a suicide risk.

St Mary’s station manager Paul Parry said: “This is an exciting project for both emergency services and is set to be a great example of what blue light collaboration can achieve.

“By bringing together our combined skills, training and equipment we can better protect the people of Hampshire.”

Sergeant Nick Mills said: “The benefits of being able to call upon extra people and resources to help in these circumstances could be crucial.

“As well as extra manpower firefighters bring an array of skills and equipment that make them ideally suited to the task.

“For both services this partnership is win, win - and it will save lives.”

He said having firefighters available to search specific areas would free up officers to pursue other elements of the search operation.

Firefighters have skills in rescuing from height and well as water and rope rescue, and have equipment such as thermal imaging cameras and ladders, while there are also plans to use shared drone facilities.

HFRS director of blue light collaboration Stew Adamson welcomed the scheme, saying it was “setting the bar for the rest of the country”.