On this page you can read, watch and see how this health-related work supports our aim of ‘Making the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier’. It complements our long-standing and extremely successful prevention work.
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.
And it’s because of how our resources are distributed (our ‘Service Delivery Model’) that we’re able to provide our current average response time of just 4 minutes 42 seconds to emergencies when life, property or businesses are in danger. This is our best-ever response time, achieved simultaneously with the provision of our new health-related services.
But unprecedented and ongoing reductions in the funding we get from central Government means we’re having to find new and innovative ways of working.
This includes generating extra income, some of which comes from being commissioned to provide health-related services.
It’s vital if we’re to address our funding reductions while avoiding cuts to frontline services.
Ultimately, it’s helping to protect our world-class prevention, protection and response services that our communities value so highly.
The money we get from the Government dropped by £28m between 2011/12 and 2015/16. We’re expecting further cuts of £10m by 2020.
Our health-related work is key to being able to continue providing our world-class 999 response services.
We’ve got 1,220 ‘wholetime’ firefighters who work on 38 fire stations housing 41 fire engines and 19 4×4 Brigade Response Vehicles. And we’re still able to attract and recruit new firefighters while other fire and rescue services have, unfortunately, been unable to take on new staff because of financial constraints.
We’re continually assessing risks across the West Midlands, and use this analysis to decide where to locate our resources. It’s what enables us to provide our current average response time of just 4 minutes 42 seconds when life, property or businesses are in danger.
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.
So, we now have a business development strategy. One element of this involves us being commissioned to provide services like Falls Response and Back Home Safe and Well.
These services complement our long-established prevention work and support our aim of ‘Making the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier’.
The many benefits of this approach include:
- being able to identify, help and protect the most vulnerable people in our community who, we know, are at higher risk from fire and other dangers in the home
- providing an increased, improved range of services to our most vulnerable residents and being able to measure the impact on their safety, health and well-being
- balancing our budget to protect our frontline resources and 999 response times
- collaboration with health colleagues, the NHS and other public sector partners
- better use of, and value for, public money.
But what is ‘falls response’?
Councils run schemes that help vulnerable people including the elderly and those with disabilities to stay independent in their own homes for longer. The schemes involve the use of smoke and flood alarms, temperature sensors and trip and fall detectors, plus pendant alarm buttons which the user presses to call for help.
West Midlands Fire Service is asked to respond if a service user has had a fall, but isn’t hurt. Only 15 per cent of the calls to which we’ve responded have subsequently needed an ambulance – helping to ease the pressure on West Midlands Ambulance Service and the wider NHS.
But our falls response service is goes much further than getting the service user back on their feet, into bed or onto a chair.
Crucially, we also assess their risk from fire and other dangers in the home.
This is called a ‘Safe and Well’ check. It involves offering advice and guidance about fire safety, but also about improving health and wellbeing.|
And if we think the person needs some extra help, we’ll get in touch with one or more of our partner agencies and ask them to get involved.
In Wolverhampton, we’ve responded to around 2,300 falls calls from the elderly and vulnerable since we teamed up with the city council in January 2017.
The council’s 24/7 Telecare team is alerted either by the customer or their in-home technology to an incident such as a fall. They then decide on the best response. That might mean contacting a family member, carer or doctor – or West Midlands Fire Service under our ‘mobile responder’ agreement.
The council has commissioned us to respond to non-emergency calls. Our staff attend in one of our brigade response or dedicated falls vehicles.
In September 2017 we teamed up with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust to provide our new ‘Back Home Safe and Well’ (BHSW) service.
This short video explains how the service works.
BHSW gives us a great opportunity to meet vulnerable people who might not otherwise come to our attention.
We’re able to check they’re safe from fire in their home – especially important for someone who’s just out of hospital.
And if we identify any other risks, we call in help from some of our many partner organisations.
This is a pilot scheme which is due to be evaluated in Spring 2018. It has already attracted interest from another large NHS Trust in the West Midlands.
In 2015, the Chief Executive of the NHS worked with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to explore how fire services could help reduce winter deaths and carry out other health work to reduce pressure on the health service.
This included fire and rescue services using NHS data to help identify vulnerable people and carry out priority Safe and Well visits, then put interventions in place and make any appropriate referrals to other organisations.
Every day, firefighters and community safety teams come into contact with people who are deemed more vulnerable and who are also at the highest risk of fire at home.
Every year, more than 600,000 Safe and Well visits are delivered by fire and rescue services across the country, most targeted at people aged 65 or over.
This work has played a key role in helping to reduce preventable fire deaths in England. Accidental fire deaths in the home account for 60% of all fire deaths. But they have reduced by around 50% over the past decade.
This successful and proactive intervention work has received recognition and praise from the Cabinet Office, the NHS and Public Health England (PHE). Both the NHS and PHE have called for the wider role and value of fire and rescue service to be recognised and utilised to support the broader health agenda, with an emphasis on helping to protect older, vulnerable people and addressing winter mortality issues.