Fire as a health asset

NHS England has launched a joint Consensus Statement with the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), Public Health England (PHE), Local Government Association (LGA) and Age UK. The statement encourages local commissioners and Fire and Rescue to roll out ‘Safe and Well’ checks in people’s homes when they visit.

Working with commissioners, FRSs will aim to extend the 670,000 home safety checks already carried out each year into a ‘Safe and Well’ visit to help particularly the vulnerable and those with complex conditions. To help do this, we have also jointly published design principles for safe and well visits, which can be tailored to reflect local needs, and guidance on working together to help services develop these in their area.

There are common risk factors between health, fire and other services, which increase demand such as multi-morbidity, cognitive impairment, smoking, drugs, alcohol, physical inactivity, obesity, loneliness and cold homes. The risk for someone over the age of 65 of dying in a fire is more than twice as high as the average risk for all ages. As well as reducing the risks of a fire, they will aim to reduce health risks such as falls, loneliness and isolation which will also reduce unplanned admissions and help people to stay in their own homes safely and for longer.

A Safe and Well visit is a person-centered home visit carried out by fire and rescue services. The visit expands the scope of previous home checks by focusing on health, as well as fire. It involves the systematic identification of, and response to, health and well-being issues along with fire risk reduction.

An effective Safe and Well visit takes a holistic approach to reducing risk. This is achieved by considering the individual, their home and lifestyle. It places the wishes, behaviours, needs and abilities of the individual at the heart of the intervention.

Throughout a Safe and Well visit the aim is to empower and motivate people to make positive changes to their health, wellbeing and fire safety. By doing this the process should not be limited to merely signposting to other agencies, but will also look to reduce risks during the initial visit where appropriate.

Resources to support the fire as a health asset programme:

Fire as a health asset case studies

The Chief Fire Officers Association website has an expanding collection of resources relating to Fire as a Health Asset work. These include a number of case studies showcasing individual fire and rescue service’s (FRS’s) work and a document produced by CFOA which describes the impact that Safe and Well visits have had on eight individuals and the outcomes of their assessment.

The Local Government Association’s ‘Beyond Fighting Fires 1’ contains eight case studies on the work of fire and rescue services (FRSs) and partner agencies with people with dementia and other vulnerable people to reduce not just fire risk but other risks in the home. FRS staff are also being trained in promoting healthy living in a variety of ways including advice on diet and exercise.

Beyond Fighting Fires 2’ looks at transformation in the FRS and describes collaborative projects with clinical commissioning groups, police and ambulance services and an increasingly wide variety of other partners.

Here are examples of what some of those case studies contain:

  • West Midlands FRS targets interventions at vulnerable people with issues around frailty, mental health and terminal illness to tackle health inequalities.
  • All Gloucestershire FRS are dementia-trained and dementia nurses can refer for home fire safety checks. The service provides fire risk training to mental health teams.
  • Dementia friendly Kent FRS work to reduce fire risk in the home for people with dementia and identify early signs of dementia.
  • Wigan firefighters act as ‘health champions’ in their local community, working with over 20 partner agencies which can also make referrals to the FRS.
  • Cheshire FRS are using data analysis to pinpoint residents most at risk of fire and falls and in need of intervention.
  • Dorset’s Safe and Independent Living (SAIL) programme ensures vulnerable people receive assistance from the right agencies while ‘Days of Warmth’ aims to tackle the problem of cold homes and winter deaths in vulnerable local people.
  • Humberside firefighters have partnered with their CCG and Yorkshire Ambulance Service to provide first response to reports of falls in the home.