Latest Public Sector News

19.08.15

Multi-agency deal to integrate fire services and NHS

A new multi-agency partnership between the LGA and Public Health England (PHE) will seek to integrate fire & rescue services and the NHS in a move to carry out in-house health checks on elderly people.

The LGA will work with NHS England and Age UK to improve the quality of life for people who would benefit from regular health checks, including those above the age of 65 and vulnerable patients with complex conditions. 

Fire & rescue services in England already carry out more than 670,000 home safety checks annually, will take on further responsibilities to ensure visits include health interventions. These can comprise hearing and sight tests, discussing heating options, brief interventions and immunisations, and directing people to additional support from wider public services.

 In Gloucestershire, for example, the fire service has already been commissioned to provide a telecare monitoring and response service.

According to Jacquie White, deputy director for people with long-term conditions at NHS England, many people are already using their fire stations as “community centres” to support public health and community engagement. Now it will look into connecting with NHS commissioners and services to provide “national support”.

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is working with NHS England to draft a list of local health interventions to be provided under the new deal, as well as developing ways to direct people who need help from other services.

New national policy and material based on current evidence of best practice will help roll-out this joint scheme across the country to “transforming care, achieve better outcomes for local people and better value for the money spent on public services”.

White said: “The fire & rescue service wants to support the health service. Why wouldn’t they – it’s the same population, with the same needs, and the same outcomes trying to be met with the same public purse. Doing it better together just makes sense – doesn’t it?”

She added that there many overlapping risk factors that increase demand for both the fire brigade and the NHS, including multi-morbidity, cognitive impairment, smoking, drugs, alcohol, physical inactivity, obesity, loneliness and cold homes.

The risk for someone over the age of 65 dying in a fire is more than twice as high as the average risk for all ages, while older people also use the biggest amount of hospital care and acute hospital beds.

It is unclear how the new model will be sustained considering the 28% of funding cuts in the UK fire service budget forecast for this current parliament – set to open up £17.5m funding gap by 2020.

A joint statement between the CFOA, NHS England, LGA, PHE and Age UK will be published soon together with design principles for “safe and well visits” and examples of case studies.

(Top image c. AndrewHA, London Fire Brigade)

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