NHS enlists help of fire service to reduce winter pressures

The NHS has sought the help of the fire service in a new health partnership aimed at tackling health and social problems and reducing winter pressures.

NHS England, Public Health England, the Fire and Rescue Service, Age UK and the Local Government Association have signed a consensus agreeing to work together to prevent or minimise service demand, and improve the quality of life of people suffering from long-term conditions.

The fire service currently carries out 670,000 home safety checks each year, assessing the homes of the vulnerable and offering advice on how to make them safer.

The consensus will enable firefighters across the country to carry out more ‘safe and well’ checks in people’s homes when they visit. As well as reducing the risks of a fire, the ‘safe and well’ checks will aim to reduce health risks such as falls, loneliness and isolation and therefore reduce visits to A&E, broken hips and depression.

Simon Stevens, NHS England CEO, said:

‘Fire service home visits already prevent fires, and now will help prevent falls, accidents and trips to casualty.’

‘It’s great to see two of the most trusted public services getting creative about jointly supporting vulnerable people to stay healthy and independent,’ he added.

Paul Hancock, President of the Chief Fire Officers Association, said:

‘By working in partnership with health professionals we can help to protect some of our most vulnerable residents, while improving people’s quality of life.’

He added: ‘The Safe and Well checks will help to identify issues at an early stage, which could reduce the likelihood of older people being admitted to hospital by focusing on prevention measures. Firefighters carrying out these checks already have a high level of trust from the people they are visiting and will be able to give help and advice on a wide range of issues, while helping to keep our older residents safer.’

The consensus was launched on national Older People’s Day on 1 October at a World Health Organization conference.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 22 October 2015.

Looking forward: the Five Year View

On 23 October, Simon Stevens outlined his Five Year Forward View for the NHS. Developed by the partner organisations that deliver and oversee health and care services, including NHS England, Public Health England, Monitor, Health Education England, the Care Quality Commission and the NHS Trust Development Authority, it offers a look at why change in the NHS is needed, what that change might look like and how we can achieve it (NHS England et al, 2014). This ‘upgrade’ to the public health system will take into account growing problems associated with obesity, smoking and the consumption of alcohol; greater control of patients’ own care through fully interoperable electronic health records that are accessible to the patient; and decisive steps to break down the barriers in how care is provided.

In line with the Urgent and Emergency Care Review (NHS England, 2013), the Five Year Forward View proposes an expanded role for ambulance services, highlighting the increasing need for out-of-hospital care to become a more notable part of the work the NHS undertakes. The plan highlights the need to dissolve traditional boundaries and integrate urgent and emergency care services between A&E departments, GP out-of-hours services, urgent care centres, NHS 111, and ambulance services. Through empowering ambulance service staff—including paramedics—with the ability to make make more decisions, treat more patients and make referrals in a more flexible way, it is hoped that pressure on other services can be alleviated and patients can receive the care they deserve. Highlighting the success of the introduction of major trauma centres, it emphasises the need for developing networks of linked hospitals that ensure patients with the most serious needs get to specialist emergency centres.

The Five Year Forward View also promotes the need to engage with communities in new ways by involving them directly in decisions about the future of health and care services (NHS England et al, 2014). Through the encouragement of community volunteering, it is hoped that a critical contribution to the provision of health and social care in England can be made. It is suggested that this could be done through further recruitment of community first responders, particulary in more rural areas, who are trained in basic life support. In addition, proposals for new roles include family and carer liaison, educating people in the management of long-term conditions and helping with vaccination programmes.

The Five Year Forward View is a welcome proposal of how the NHS can tackle changing demands in health care. By recognising how and why the health system needs to evolve, it is hoped the NHS will be able to provide better, higher quality, and more integrated care to its patients.

References

NHS England (2013) High Quality Care for All, Now and for Future Generations: Transforming Urgent and Emergency Care Services in England – Urgent and Emergency Care Review End of Phase 1 Report. NHS England, London

NHS England, Public Health England, Health Education England, Monitor, Care Quality Commission, NHS Trust Development Authority (2014) Five Year Forward View. http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/5yfv-web.pdf (accessed 1 December 2014)

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 5 December 2014.