Journalist, Cherry Park

Author Bio ▼

Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
October 13, 2014

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Government Signals Further Integration of Blue Light Services

theresa may

Home Secretary Theresa May (photo: UK Home Office)

Home Secretary Theresa May has sounded a warning that the fire, ambulance and police services will have to share even more functions and operations to save money.

In a speech on police reform made to the Reform think tank the Home Secretary mooted further merging of the ‘blue light’ services as the UK’s tries to shrink a large deficit and record stock of debt.

May said the blue-light services would need to merge at least back-office functions and premises and systems such as IT and procurement, if they were to survive further cuts and protect front-line services.

Collaboration

All three blue light services are already working together under the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP), which was created after the 7/7 bombings in Londonto improve collaboration between emergency services at the scene of major incidents.

Some fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) have begun to collaborate with police and ambulance services by sharing stations and back-office functions and collaborating on service delivery.

According to then Fire Minister Brandon Lewis in a speech given in March this year, these services are achieving better outcomes for the public and achieving more from their resources in the process.

For example, in Hampshire, merged fire, police and council back-office services are expected to save up to £4m a year. In Merseyside, fire and police are working together to create a new combined command and control centre, saving £3.5 million, while in Devon and Somerset, ambulance and fire services are running a joint response system to emergencies.

Responding to, and recovering from, emergencies is a multi-agency activity that may involve many organisations. Fire and rescue services (FRSs) sometimes assist other agencies in the removal of large quantities of flood water, handling casualties, and the recovery of bodies.

Downsides

According to some commentators, integration between the three services will not work because they are three different services, with differing cultures, pay scales, terms and conditions, service requirements, management structures and budgets. The cost of integration would exceed any money saved.

A comment piece in The Guardian argued that although there are many successful examples of local collaboration between the three services, such as fire officers giving emergency first aid, or police travelling in the same vehicle as firefighters, existing management structures would have to be rationalised before meaningful integration could take place.

 

The 43 separate police services and 46 fire and rescue services all have their own different governance, organisational and operational structures and it would take time to safely rationalise each individual service.

 

Other countries

Greater integration is also occurring in other parts of the world. It’s common in the US, for example, for fire services to operate fully integrated emergency ambulances crewed by firefighters who are also emergency medical technicians or paramedics.

And in Singapore, fire and ambulance are all part of the same service known as the Civil Defence Force.

 

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