18022 – Falls response service

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A request for information about falls response service – 18022

Ref: FOI/18022

RE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 REQUEST

I am writing to confirm that the West Midlands Fire Service has now completed its search for the information you requested on 25th January 2018

Please find below a summary of our findings.

Request

We have been looking into social care contracts West Midlands Fire Service has entered into with Wolverhampton, Dudley and Coventry Councils.

The Falls Response contract sees fire service staff dispatched to homes if an elderly person has had a fall and alerted the council through pressing a pendant.

A similar contract involving the Fire Service also uses brigade transport in Coventry to ferry discharged hospital patients home.

I would like to put a number of questions to you about these contracts and the impact they may be having on the service. 

It is claimed the service has lost front-line firefighters to help service these care contracts. What is your response?

Reply

We hope the following responses will answer your questions. We would also ask that you refer to this page on our website where you will find extensive background and information.
We do not recognise, or use, the phrase ‘care contracts’ in this context. This description is potentially misleading and, crucially, ignores the fire safety-related aspects of our health-related work. These activities support and complement our long-established and extremely successful prevention work, which focuses on reducing the vulnerability at home of our most at-risk residents, including the elderly.

In all three council areas where we currently provide Falls Response and Back Home Safe and Well Services, domiciliary care is provided by separate agencies.

Emergency medical care is provided by West Midlands Ambulance Service, but only 15 per cent of our Falls Responses have subsequently needed an ambulance. We are, therefore, also helping to ease the pressure on West Midlands Ambulance Service and the wider NHS.

We know that, by working with a range of expert partner organisations, we can help keep our most vulnerable residents safe from fire and other risks in the home. Early help and support means people like the elderly can stay safe, well and independent.
Our health-related work gives us access to people who might otherwise be in danger in the home without our subsequent Safe and Well assessments.
Fewer firefighters and the closure of fire stations would inevitably compromise our commitment and ability to respond to serious incidents within 5 minutes.

Other fire and rescue services are, unfortunately, having to sacrifice some of their frontline, but we are determined to do everything we can to avoid this.

Our response times have not been affected by our health-related work. In fact, we are currently seeing our best-ever recorded response times to the most serious incidents we attend. The current average is 4 minutes and 44 seconds, which is being achieved simultaneously with the delivery of our health-related work. This belies any suggestion that our health-related work is compromising our attendance achievements.

All of the health work undertaken by WMFS directly aligns with our risk reduction strategy and with targeting our most vulnerable residents.

Request

It is claimed staff were told the care contracts would bring in £2m over three years. But it is claimed just £300k has been raised in 18 months. What is your response?

Reply

In October 2016, West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority published its Efficiency Plan which was approved by the Home Office.

The plan includes finding alternative funding opportunities, to help counter multi-million reductions in our Government funding. These reductions are forecast to continue for some years to come.

For guidance, your information would appear to be based on old data.

This page on our website gives important context and background.

However, this information is exempt under section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as this information is reasonably accessible to the requestor. Information concerning monetary value of the contact can be found on relevant council website at the following link:

http://www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/spending

http://www.dudley.gov.uk/resident/your-council/local-transparency/council-expenditure-over-500/

http://www.coventry.gov.uk/info/2/budgets_and_spending/651/transparency

Request

Why did West Midlands Fire Service enter into these contracts?

Reply

Please see this page on our website, which gives a detailed and comprehensive explanation.

West Midlands Fire Service are responding to non-emergency health-related incidents, such as people who have fallen in their home and transporting some patients home from hospital, to ensure that they are safe from fire in their home.

We recognise that the people who fall at home are also likely to be at greater risk from fire at home, so there is a direct link to our long-established and extremely successful prevention work of identifying and reducing risk.

We know, from the feedback we get from service users and families, that our wider health work is making a big difference to their safety and quality of life.

Request

Have you had any negative feedback from staff about these contracts?

Reply

The response has been mixed, but it is important to note that there is sufficient support from both operational and non-operational staff to enable us to fulfil these contracts.

Many of our staff see and understand the need for change and transformation within our organisation, one element of which is our wider health work.

It is right that we demonstrate value for public money and right that our firefighters help to deliver this through our fire prevention, business protection and emergency response work. Our health-related work complements perfectly our prevention activities.

Request

Will new recruits be required to carry out this commissioning work?

Reply

Yes. This will be facilitated by the new contracts with which they are issued.

Members of our support staff also volunteer to deliver these services, helping to reduce vulnerability and fire-related risk.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact me.  Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications. If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision please write to The Public Relations Department, West Midlands Fire Service, 99 Vauxhall Road, Birmingham, B7 4HW

Further information concerning Freedom of Information requests can be found on the Information Commissioner website at either the following link: https://ico.org.uk/ or at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, SK9 5AF.

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