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The fire and rescue service must reinvent themselves as a health and wellbeing service to survive the challenges of budget cuts, a new report from localism think tank NLGN argues today. By adopting this radical new role, the fire service can help to support the NHS by keeping people out of hospital.
The report, published in association with the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) shows how fire and rescue services have driven a reduction in the number of fires which has resulted in calls by some for them to reduce their staffing levels. In the last decade the number of incidents has fallen by 40%, yet the number of firefighters has only fallen by 6%. To resist these calls, fire services must define a new role for themselves or risk becoming a residual service of reservists.
NLGN argues that the law should be changed to give the fire and rescue service a formal role in helping older people to live independently and reducing attendance at A&E. They can also work with young people to reduce risky lifestyle choices.
This would build on emerging good practice in areas such as Greater Manchester, which could be rolled out to benefit other communities across the country.
The fire service is incredibly well-placed to deliver this role. It has been the most demonstrably successful part of the public sector in successfully reducing its costs, by preventing problems arising in the first place. The number of fires has plummeted – in large part due to programmes designed to fit more smoke alarms into people’s homes and increase public knowledge of fire risks.
The fire service has a uniquely trusted brand and the ability to reach vulnerable communities and access their homes and lives. By expanding their remit NLGN believes that more vulnerable people can be reached earlier and pressure can be taken off the cash-strapped health and social care services.
Other recommendations in the report include exploring a mutualised national back office to act both as purchasing and information hub, and that fire services should further ally themselves with ambulance trusts to help alleviate the mounting pressure under which they find themselves.
Report author Dr Claire Mansfield said:
“Firefighters have been fantastically successful in moving from a responsive to an interventionist service. We believe that this should be recognised and better understood at a national level. Instead of the fire and rescue service being residualised, its remit must be expanded to offer different types of interventions – including in preventative health and social care. By working with local councils and health and wellbeing boards, local fire services can be really effective partners in improving the overall health of their neighbourhood.”
Peter Dartford, President of CFOA said:
“I’d like to thank the NLGN for completing this independent piece of research, which will be useful in helping to shape the future of the fire and rescue service. It provides an additional perspective on the wider role fire and rescue service could and perhaps should be undertaking to improve outcomes for the communities they serve.”
The Author of the report Claire Mansfield presents the report HERE