Staffordshire’s Chief Fire Officer has today welcomed a national partnership between the fire and rescue service and the NHS.
"Members of the fire and rescue service are often invited into people’s homes where representatives from other public sector organisations may face a reluctant reception. This gives us an excellent opportunity to talk to people, assess their situation in terms of fire risk and health and wellbeing and offer them valuable advice. It also allows us to be the eyes and ears for partners such as the NHS as we can refer residents who need help to the appropriate teams."
Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford
Five organisations including the fire and rescue service, NHS England, Public Health England, Age UK and Local Government Association have signed a new ‘Consensus Statement’.
As part of the agreement each of the bodies have pledged to tackle health and social problems and reduce winter pressures by working together to make changes throughout their workforces.
It means that firefighters across the country will aim to carry out more ‘Safe and Well’ checks in people’s homes when they visit.
They aim to extend the 670,000 home safety checks already carried out each year into even more in-depth visits to help people who are particularly vulnerable and those with complex conditions.
As well as reducing the risks of a fire, they will aim to decrease health risks such as falls, lonliness and isolation which will, in turn, reduce visits to A&E, broken hips and depression.
In Staffordshire, the Service has already launched a number of initiatives in partnership with Age UK, Public Health England and local Health and Wellbeing Boards in a bid to keep local communities as safe as possible.
It is currently running the SAfER – Sustained Action for Evidencing Reduction of Risk – pilot scheme in both the north and south of the county. Firefighters are taking a community based preventative approach, together with colleagues from North and South Staffs Age UK, based on evidence from a range of data sources in an attempt to reduce excess winter deaths, A&E admissions and demand on acute services.
In addition, the Service is one of only three fire and rescue services nationally to be selected to take part in a further trial with Public Health England that looks to make an immediate impact on NHS winter pressures. This initiative will run alongside the SAfER pilot.
The Service has also teamed up with Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust (SSOTP) following a review into a fatal fire.
The process found that by working together the two organisations could have a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable people, helping to prevent further incidents from occurring in the future.
Vulnerable people that members of staff from the NHS believe may be at risk of fire are now referred to the Service and a free Home Fire Risk Check is then carried out. The partnership also works in the opposite direction with fire service personnel referring cases to SSOTP.
Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford said: "We strongly believe that the fire and rescue service and health and social care services have an important affinity when it comes to protecting some of the most vulnerable members of our communities and we have been working on that premise for some time in Staffordshire. We are delighted and rightly proud that our approach is being recognised by some of the most influential thinkers and policy makers from the health sector at a national level in terms of how joined up services can work to better the health and wellbeing of the communities we are all trying to serve. This thinking also supports our long-term message that prevention is better than cure and by working more closely together with our partners prevention can be delivered more cheaply than cure.
"Members of the fire and rescue service are often invited into people’s homes where representatives from other public sector organisations may face a reluctant reception. This gives us an excellent opportunity to talk to people, assess their situation in terms of fire risk and health and wellbeing and offer them valuable advice. It also allows us to be the eyes and ears for partners such as the NHS as we can refer residents who need help to the appropriate teams.
"By working together in this way we can significantly reduce the number of people requiring medical treatment for injuries such as broken legs or hips and can prevent potential problems from getting worse or even arising in the first place. This is not only a great benefit for the older or vulnerable people involved, it also relieves the demand on an already under pressure health services and is far better for the taxpayer. It makes perfect sense and will undoubtedly bring improvements for all concerned."