Living WellDevon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service have recently formed an exciting new prevention partnership in the area of home safety with Livewell Southwest; a major health and social care provider within Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon.

Livewell SW is community based and they engage with a range of people of different ages and vulnerabilities, often in their home environment. This naturally lends itself to a source of valuable referrals to the home safety partnership. So when Livewell SW work with inpatients who are about to be discharged home they use an electronic patient record care plan called System1.

This now provides prompts to staff to consider a referral to the home safety partnership.  The aim is that these referrals will become commonplace and will help Livewell SW in its ambition to help people to be safe and well at home. 

John Mellor, from the West Devon Group (Partnership Development & Youth Inclusion Officer) said: “This valuable partnership means we will now receive a high number of quality referrals for very vulnerable people in the SW. This is a great example of partnership working that has a real benefit to the people we work with. You can’t underestimate the importance of fire safety in the home.  From the start Livewell have been very keen to develop the partnership and have expanded the original partnership from Plymouth, to Tavistock and Kingsbridge hospitals.”

The idea was instigated by Natasha Whitford-Robson, occupational therapy support worker who joined Kingfisher ward at Mount Gould hospital a year ago.

 Natasha explained: “Part of my role involves going into the community for ‘environment visits’ to patient’s homes that have left our care. When visiting I was surprised to find some homes had no smoke alarms at all, or exposed wiring and over loaded sockets. Sometimes there was the issue of hoarding, preventing a fast exit if they were to have a fire.

“I then questioned why we were allowing patients to be discharged from our care and then maybe going home into an unsafe environment. I carried out some research, which lead me to make contact with the Fire Service and everything escalated from there. My goal was for every patient in Livewell to have the opportunity to have a free home safety check.

“I’d like to see everyone becoming more risk aware, not only the patients but the staff so they know what to look out for – for instance a patient might have several burns on their clothing, so it would be automatically highlighted that they are a heavy smoker. It’s about everyone being more visually aware, so the patients after leaving the hospital are as safe as possible when in their own home.”

Lisa Gimingham, deputy locality manager for Livewell South West explained:  “I have a responsibility for several services including quite a lot of metal health services. Three or four months ago, Natasha, gave a presentation, to some of the senior operational management team with John Mellor from the Fire Service explaining what a Home Fire Safety involves. They were seeking to form a partnership with an organisation like Livewell, as we cover health and social care.  We’re a big organisation with over 2,500 staff working with vulnerable people who could really benefit from a partnership like this.

“I was particularly pertinent to me as a couple of years ago one of the teams I was working with were involved with a lady who sadly died after setting fire to her flat. I attended the coroner’s court and that made me think about how we work and engage with people in terms of home safety and fire. Lots of our service users smoke or have other habits that put them at a higher risk. So someone with mental health issues might tamper with a smoke alarm as they feel it is monitoring them.

“Working with the FS in this way seemed like a really positive move. Livewell has expanded and now covers a large area of the SW, so we’re taking about potentially reaching many thousands of service users with different vulnerabilities. We’re looking forward to referrals coming into the partnership as well as working alongside DSFRS.”

The importance that a home fire safety visit can make to a vulnerable person’s life is invaluable.