To read our full Health & Wellbeing focus subscribe to FIRE Magazine here
This reporter is having flashbacks. Not, I have to confess, from any war-torn frontline; rather from the mish-mash rush to promote brigade community fire safety initiatives, pre-Bain, pre-second national dispute and the broad brush reforming modernisation agenda.
Of course, community fire safety was corralled into a national, coordinated programme once the government saw the sense in it. But there seems to be a similar whiff in the air in relation to health and wellbeing. I may be being disingenuous.
Is firefighter safety a priority for you? Book your place at our first FIRE Congress on The Future of Firefighter Safety (9 October)
After all, the Chief Fire Officers Association and Local Government Association have joined in partnership with NHS England and Age UK at a national level ‘aimed at improving the quality of life for people who would benefit from brief health and wellbeing interventions in their own homes, and better coordinated public services’.
As our Focus on Health & Wellbeing [in September's FIRE Magazine - subscribe here to read in full] clearly illustrates, the Fire and Rescue Service can make a huge impact across a range of health issues, from protecting the vulnerable and elderly to working with groups with special needs.
The logic behind fire’s integral relationship and positive impact on health and wellbeing hardly needs explaining here. The statistics say it all: 670,000 home fire safety visits a year for starters. It makes sense for fire services to play a key role in helping support other public services. They are experts in risk reduction with a proven capability and capacity to enter all areas of our communities. It is not just a sensible step forward, it is a blindingly obvious development to integrate public services.
So why the cynicism? Simply put: I get it. You get it. Most of the Fire Service got community fire safety long before it became fashionable and was adopted as part of the lexicon as if it were an original concept. But how long did it take for the government to catch on? When all the talk is of blue light integration and Police and Crime Commissioner takeovers, it appears many are looking in the wrong direction when the incident is right behind them. Are fire and rescue services now in danger of becoming a vulnerable part of the community themselves?
If being swallowed whole by the police could be regarded in those terms, then yes. I could go off on a tangent but I’ll leave that to others who seem obsessed with mistaking blue light integration for empire building. Back to real business and the health of the nation. We need a clear, concise statement of intent backed up by rigorous evidence and scrutiny of schemes that work and can be rolled out regionally and nationally.
It needs to be spelled out unequivocally in old fashioned business and economic terms alongside the overwhelming moral case. As NHS England talk about supporting the development of a ‘a whole system, multi-agency approach to deliver the national commitment of more integrated person-centred care closer to home’, fire must explain how it is contingent within that and detail how a valuable resource is currently being massively under-exploited to the detriment of the public. That’ll cure my déjà vu.