NHS And Fire Service working together to help vulnerable people and reduce winter pressures

Photo credit Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service
Photo credit Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

To help reduce pressures on the NHS this winter, fire and rescue services have joined forces with the NHS. This new partnership will help to tackle health and social problems, while reducing winter pressures.

Today (October 1st), NHS England, Public Health England, the Fire and Rescue Service, Age UK and the Local Government Association signed a new ‘Consensus’ promising to work together to make changes throughout their workforce. This also coincides with CFOA’s Home Safety Week.

This sets out how the organisations will work together to encourage local action and minimise service demand, while improving the quality of life of people with long term conditions. It means fire services across the country will aim to carry out more ‘Safe and Well’ checks in people’s homes when they visit. By extending the 670,000 home safety checks carried out each year into a ‘Safe and Well visits’, this will help vulnerable people and those with complex conditions.

This could include a number of interventions, such as: installing a handrail or fixing hazards such as loose rugs to prevent falls; spot problems such as lack of heating or hoarded clutter or signpost vulnerable people to health services, local government agencies or local charities for help, support or company.

Some areas are already doing this innovative, joined up work but the ‘Consensus’ now pledges a drive to roll it out across the country.

The ‘Consensus’ is being launched on national Older People’s Day, and will be announced at a World Health Organisation conference in London.

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive Officer, said: “Pulling together in this kind of joint working and piggy-backing on work the fire service is already doing is better for the patient and better for the taxpayer.

“By preventing issues such as falls and broken hips we are also reducing A&E visits, isolation and depression and by spotting social issues earlier we can help people to stay in their own homes for longer.”

Evidence shows that people have a high level of trust in the fire and rescue service which allows them access and makes it easier for them to give simple advice which could save or change a life. In Greater Manchester for example, firefighters form a Community Risk Intervention Team (CRIT) to provide a multifaceted response to keep people safe in their homes, reducing demand on ambulance services and facilitate early discharge from hospital. Click here for video that gives an overview of the work of the Greater Manchester CRIT .

Paul Hancock, President of the Chief Fire Officers Association, said: “By working in partnership with health professionals we can help to protect some of our most vulnerable residents, while improving people’s quality of life. The Safe and Well checks will help to identify issues at an early stage, which could reduce the likelihood of older people being admitted to hospital by focusing on prevention measures. Firefighters carrying out these checks already have a high level of trust from the people they are visiting and will be able to give help and advice on a wide range of issues, while helping to help make our older residents safer.”

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England said: “Saving peoples’ lives is the most important thing for firefighters. They have already had astonishing success in reducing deaths from fires and can now bring this experience to bear more widely.”

“They are perfectly placed to spot the dangers facing the most vulnerable when making their hundreds of thousands visits each year to homes across the country. This agreement will help ensure older people, and those with complex needs, get the care and support they need to live healthier, more independent lives.”

A ‘Practical Guide to Healthy Ageing’ was also relaunched today by NHS England in partnership with Age UK. The guide is currently being distributed through Age UK shops, FRS home safety visits, GP practices, pharmacies, housing associations and many more.

Pam Creaven, Services Director at Age UK said: “We’re delighted to be part of the Consensus and believe that Local Age UKs and local fire services working together can really make a difference, helping older people stay healthy and independent in their own home.”

“It is terrific for Age UK to be joining NHS England in launching this new practical guide for people living with frailty. It is clear that having access to the right information and advice at the right time and knowing where to go for support can really enhance older people’s lives.”

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for long term conditions, said: “This is translating the Five Year forward View into reality. There are 670,000 home visits a year by the Fire Service for people with the sort of risk factors we recognize in health care.

“The fire service has reduced domestic fires by 35 per cent with pro-active  interventions. Working together will help us to provide a good deal for the taxpayer and an even better deal for people at risk.”

The full text of the consensus can be found on the CFOA website

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