Firefighters are delivering life-saving treatment at certain Red One emergencies in a collaboration which is transforming the way services are delivered to residents in Surrey and Sussex.
A combination of factors has set the scene for increased cooperation between blue light partners, including rising demand for police and ambulance services, fewer fires but the need to maintain essential fire service cover for a wide range and scale of incidents, and tighter budgets for all the blue light services.
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, Surrey Police, Sussex Police and South East Coast Ambulance are the main partners, while Surrey and Borders Partnership Mental Health Foundation Trust is a key stakeholder, along with the county councils.
The partners are working together in a range of areas.
More than 330 Surrey fire service staff have been trained to attend medical emergencies as a first response if they are the closest resources but always backed up by an ambulance.
Since the trial was established in September there have been more than 300 requests to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service for mobilisation to cases such as cardiac arrests, choking and loss of consciousness. Analysis shows that firefighters are often getting there within minutes, potentially saving lives and improving the chances of recovery.
The pilot is just one initiative to emerge from the collaboration programme.
Linda Wood, Programme Manager, said: “Imminent legislation will put increased duties on emergency services to collaborate so this partnership is ahead of the curve.”
With the award of government innovation funding, the services were able to look at some of the gaps and overlaps in their work.
One ambition, for some of the partners, (Surrey and Sussex Police together with Surrey Fire and Rescue) is to establish joint contact, control and dispatch arrangements to handle 999 calls through to mobilising resources.
“We have a range of initiatives in place designed to bring arrangements closer through technology and considering bringing staff who handle calls together. If they are located in one place that could bring further opportunities, including making joint decisions about the resources needed to attend incidents based on shared intelligence”, said Wood.
In a first step towards this shared vision, a number of the partners are looking to join up the various IT systems and platforms that are in use, procuring an information exchange mechanism that has so far connected some of the partners.
Transport is another area where savings and efficiencies can be made. The partnership is looking at where it can reduce the number of workshops across the various services, for instance, or getting a better deal on contracts for fuel, breakdowns, major repairs and vehicle hire.
“We are looking at what we can standardise and what we can’t,” said Wood. “It’s a simple example but the fire appliances of the three fire and rescue services all have a slightly different specification to meet local geographical needs but there may be opportunities to standardise a number of the main attributes over time. A very simple example might be the make and type of ladder used, rather than each service dealing with potentially different suppliers.”
“In the longer term, subject to there being a sound business case to deliver changes, and funding to support it, this collaboration will improve the service to the public whilst reducing costs and increasing resilience. It should mean less overlap in service provision and an increased ability to align resources and to meet demand.”
Councillor Kay Hammond, Chair of the Emergency Services Collaboration Programme governance steering group, and Cabinet Associate for Community Safety Services said: “Governance between six culturally different organisations is difficult but the benefits that will come from such innovative collaboration will be of huge benefit to local residents and communities as a whole. After nine months we have already seen benefits to our residents and there is a promise of much more to come”.