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Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service - Preventing, Protecting, Responding

Firefighters carry out 377 'safe and well' visits

12/01/2016

Firefighters have carried out 377 ‘safe and well visits’ in the homes of older residents as part of a ground-breaking initiative.

"It has only been running for a matter of months but there is no doubt that this partnership project is making a very real and very positive difference to people’s lives as well as easing the pressure on the NHS by allowing residents to keep their independence for as long as they want to and for as long as is safe to do so."

Station Manager in Central Prevent & Protect Dez Stoddart

SAfER – Sustained Action for Evidencing Reduction of Risk – aims to improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of the community.

The scheme, which is a partnership between Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Age UK, is currently focussing on Stafford, Codsall, Wombourne, Kinver, Tamworth and Longton.

Since SAfER was launched in September 2015, the Service has referred 153 people to Age UK for further support or services following a visit.

Evidence from a range of data sources is used to identify which households should be targeted under the initiative. The aim of the scheme is to reduce excess winter deaths, Accident and Emergency admissions and the demand on acute services.

Firefighters also deliver life-saving advice and identify potential fire hazards to people aged 65 and over as part of the project’s holistic approach.

Examples of how the initiative has improved residents’ quality of life include a woman who had become isolated in her home due to being in a wheelchair. She is now being assessed with the view to having wheelchair ramps fitted outside her property to allow her to come and go safely.

The plight of an elderly man whose mobility has greatly deteriorated in recent years, leaving him housebound, will also now be assessed by an occupational therapist thanks to a referral from the crew.

Station Manager in Central Prevent & Protect Dez Stoddart, who is leading the project, said: "We are in a fairly unique and privileged position in that firefighters are often allowed over the threshold to speak to residents who may generally be wary of visits from official organisations.

"This pioneering project enables us to help improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents by assessing their needs, not just in terms of fire safety, and, where necessary, referring individual cases to Age UK. The ‘safe and well visits’ look at issues such as whether people feel lonely or isolated, if they are experiencing financial difficulties or are struggling with debt and whether they have any signs of dementia or are at risk of suffering a fall.

"It has only been running for a matter of months but there is no doubt that this partnership project is making a very real and very positive difference to people’s lives as well as easing the pressure on the NHS by allowing residents to keep their independence for as long as they want to and for as long as is safe to do so."

Chief Executive of Age UK South Staffordshire Nick Maslen said: "We know that simple interventions and relevant signposting can make a lot of difference to the quality of older peoples’ lives. Accurate identification and targeting by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service means that resources can be directed to those most at need and using our well-developed knowledge of the market and local partnerships we can facilitate support services to improve well-being that can really change lives."

The SAfER project is one of many partnerships aimed at improving residents’ quality of life that the Service is involved in.

Another project that Staffordshire, along with Greater Manchester and Gloucestershire fire and rescue services, is part of is a national initiative with Public Health England (PHE). NHS England, Age UK and Local Government Association are also involved in the scheme.

They have pledged to work together to tackle health and social problems and reduce winter pressures by making vital changes to the way they work.

Firefighters have been carrying out more in-depth visits with residents, focussing specifically on vulnerable people and those with complex needs.

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.