Firefighters across the country are being provided with thousands of lateral flow tests by the government - so they can help support with the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The availability of these tests can now make greater involvement a reality, with firefighters being equipped to take on frontline roles, such as vaccinator or patient advocate at a vaccination centre.

The Home Office informed the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) about the move by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) this week.

The initial 10,000 tests a week means at least 5,000 firefighters can continue to assist with the fight against COVID This includes supporting key aspects of the vaccination programme, such as continuing to support Ambulance and Health Trusts, mass testing and vaccination.

Throughout the pandemic Chief Fire Officers up and down the Country have been keen to see firefighters’ skills capitalised on, particularly given the extensive fire aid and trauma care qualifications they hold.

This move will provide further help to support the NHS, in terms of the vaccination programme - and is a direct attempt to tackle COVID-related admissions and the winter pressures it is currently facing.

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher said: “For months, dedicated and skilled firefighters across the entire UK have gone above and beyond to assist those who need help the most.

“We have thousands of firefighters who are ready, willing and able to take on more in the fight against COVID-19. Today’s announcement means thousands of firefighters are being equipped to support one of the biggest means to combat the virus and reduce its devastating impacts”.

NFCC stated the health and safety of all staff is paramount to every Chief Fire Officer, all of whom take this duty of care very seriously. Firefighters would be not asked to do this work without the correct training; suitable risk assessments and the same health surveillance / testing arrangements afforded to others.

Echoing Mr Wilsher’s comments, Chair of NFCC’s COVID Committee and national lead, Phil Garrigan commented: “Fire services have been exploring for some weeks now how they can help with the roll out of the mass vaccination programme, this announcement enables this work to commence in earnest.

“We have seen staff across the entire UK take on more to assist in the fight against COVID, which shows their commitment and dedication to the communities they ably assist each and every day. We won’t stand back whilst others struggle on the frontline – it’s in the DNA of the Fire and Rescue Service to step up to serve and that is what we will do”

With almost 23,000 wholetime firefighters across England alone, there is a real opportunity for Fire and Rescue Services to play a key role in helping to deliver and administer vaccinations across the entire UK. There are an additional 12,498 on-call firefighters ready willing and able to help.

This additional measure of regular lateral flow testing will help to ensure the health and safety of staff is monitored and that the testing in place mirrors that of the partner agency we are helping. It will also remove the need to isolate staff (on a precautionary basis) on return from such duties which would have a huge and adverse impact on our ability to support the work in the first instance, notwithstanding the impact it would have on our core firefighting duties.

To date Fire and Rescue Services have delivered:

  • 111,000 essential items delivered to the most vulnerable people
  • assembly of 68,135 single use facemasks
  • 25,000 deliveries of PPE
  • 4,135 face masks fitted for frontline NHS and clinical care staff
  • training for staff to drive ambulances
  • 22,500 food parcels were packed
  • assisting with taking more than 1,000 antigen samples
  • transported 1,446 COVID patients and 3,337 non-COVID patients to hospital
  • assisted with the movement of more than 2000 bodies