More than 4,000 fire and rescue service staff from across the UK are volunteering to support the NHS and other key services in the fight against Covid-19, including driving ambulances and delivering food to vulnerable people.

A further 10,000 FRS staff are on standby to assist as and when required. These figures - collated by the National Fire Chiefs Council for the Home Office - show how staff from across all fire services are ready, willing and able to play their part during the pandemic.

These additional activities were first agreed with the National Employers and the Fire Brigades Union on March 26, with more added at the end of last week.

Fire staff are providing direct support to colleagues in the NHS and other key services, who are working tirelessly to keep the public safe.

Activities carried out by fire staff include: face fitting for masks for frontline NHS and clinical staff; delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies; assisting the ambulance service with driving and patient/ambulance support; moving deceased people and supporting the most vulnerable through deliveries.

Recently agreed activities are: Assisting in taking samples for Covid-19 antigen testing, driving non-blue light ambulance transport, and driving instruction to deliver training for non-service personnel to drive ambulances (not on blue lights).

The additional activities are in addition to fire and rescue services maintaining the response to emergency incidents and carrying out core duties such as prevention and building safety based on risk.

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher said: "This is testament to the commitment and determination of all fire and rescue service staff to assist during a time of crisis.

"We have seen people from every part of fire and rescue services volunteer to take on additional work to support the response to COVID-19. This dedication shows staff doing what they do best; using their wide range of skills and capabilities to support people in the heart of their communities.

"This means we can assist the health service, ambulance trusts, social care and a range of other organisations on the front line, ensuring those who need help, receive it."

Minister for Fire Lord Greenhalgh said: "I would like to thank the thousands of incredible firefighters and staff who have stepped up to the plate to help ambulance services, NHS staff and carers as well as supporting the vulnerable in our communities.

"The response by fire and rescue services has been heroic and is contributing hugely to our national effort to protect the NHS and save lives."

NFCC is working closely with the Home Office to ensure the fire sector receives the support it requires at this crucial time. The Joint Fire Ministers have today written to the NFCC to outline how the Government is providing support and removing burdens on the fire service.

Actions already taken include:

  • Ensuring services receive the equipment they need, when they need it, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Working with HM Treasury to enable the re-employment of retired key workers
  • Allowing for delays to the publication of national framework, annual assurance statements and IRMPs
  • Working with HMRC to issue guidance to employers and employees, to ensure retained staff are not ruled ineligible for the COVID-19 loss of earnings benefit
  • Working with DHSC and PHE to extend testing to firefighters.
  • Working with the Department for Transport to ensure that those fit to drive can continue their crucial role, and services can keep fire appliances on the road, by relaxing the requirement to provide a medical report driving licence renewals.