Safe and Well Visits ‘an overwhelming success’
Groundbreaking work by Cheshire firefighters has resulted in nearly 4,000 people address health concerns.
On 1 February 2017 Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) launched an exciting new initiative, in collaboration with the NHS and local authority Directors of Public Health, to help improve the health of potentially vulnerable people.
The free Safe and Well Visits - for the over 65s and people who are referred to the fire service by partner agencies because they are considered to be at a particular risk - see Cheshire firefighters and advocates provide far more than the traditional fire safety and smoke alarm advice.
They have received additional training to provide advice on slips, trips and falls prevention and winter warmth safety during Safe and Well Visits, as well as using a basic ECG device to check for atrial fibrillation, encouraging people to use a free bowel cancer screening kit and offering additional support to those who wish to stop smoking or taking drugs or reduce their alcohol consumption.
The latest figures show that 47,768 visits had been carried out by the end of March 2018, with 8.1 per cent of them resulting in a referral to health agencies.
There were 782 local authority falls team referrals, 292 affordable warmth referrals to a specialist fuel poverty charity for help and support, 103 smoking cessation referrals and 13 alcohol reduction referrals, and 76 people were signposted to see their GP following screening for atrial fibrillation.
In addition, there were 2,606 referrals to the NHS England bowel cancer screening hub for a free kit to be sent out to householders. At least three people tested positive for bowel cancer through using the kit and are now receiving treatment for the killer disease.
Nick Evans, Head of Prevention at CFRS, said: “The latest figures show that without a Safe and Well Visit almost 4,000 people in Cheshire may have suffered adversely through not knowing where to turn or not realising they may have something needing medical attention.
“Cheshire firefighters and advocates have carried out an impressively large number of Safe and Well Visits since the pioneering programme was launched in February 2017 – and the figures show that it has been an overwhelming success.
“It helps to save lives, reduce the number of emergency visits to hospital and is an excellent example of the public sector collaborating and partnering up, and using resources more effectively and efficiently for the people we serve in Cheshire.”
CFRS has a strong record of prevention work to help target and protect vulnerable people from fire risk in the home, particularly with its successful Home Safety Assessment programme for those most at risk from a fire.
CFRS expanded its advice and support to vulnerable residents after Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, and Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, publicly called for the wider role of fire and rescue services to be recognised and utilised to support the broader health agenda, including addressing winter mortality issues.
There is now a national consensus for health and fire services to work in partnership to help protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.
CFRS has embraced the national partnership to help ‘vulnerable people stay healthy and independent’.
Nick added: “People who are most at risk from fire are often also vulnerable to certain health concerns.
"Fire service staff come into contact with vulnerable people on a daily basis, having the unique ability to access homes of vulnerable people and speak to them face-to-face, and are approachable and trusted by the public. So it makes sense for firefighters to support health services colleagues by promoting potentially life-saving health advice as well as potentially life-saving fire safety advice.
“We have had a lot of positive feedback on the Safe and Well Visits and the programme has won a host of awards.”
Since its inception, the programme has scooped a Working Together gong at the 2018 iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards, a 2017 Excellence in Fire and Emergency Award for Partnership of the Year, a 2017 Healthcare Transformation Award for Improving Cancer Outcomes and a Showcasing Best Practice Award at the 2017 international Heart Rhythm Conference.
It also earned CFRS a place as a shortlisted finalist in the public health category at the 2018 LGC Awards.
Dr Matt Kearney, a GP and the National Clinical Director for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at NHS England, said: “Safe and Well Visits are a great example of how the NHS is joining up with other services to improve care.
“Firefighters are out on the frontline talking to vulnerable people. It is only right we make the most of these opportunities and ask what else can we do for people while we are there.
Julie Kelly, Head of Public Health at NHS England North - Cheshire and Merseyside, added: “The Safe and Well Visits scheme is a great initiative that means important health-related messages are reaching people at risk.
“By providing people with advice on how to look after themselves, and to help keep them safe in the first place, this will also reduce the pressure on health and care services.
“Encouraging the uptake of bowel screening, for example, can mean those who have failed to recognise any symptoms, or have no symptoms, will get the best possible treatment from an earlier date and increase their chances of a full recovery."
Sandra Davies, Chair of the Cheshire and Merseyside Directors of Public Health Executive Board, said: “The Directors of Public Health (DsPH) are pleased that the Safe and Well checks which Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has been delivering are proving to be such a success, particularly around the delivery of health interventions for vulnerable people.
“Champs Public Health Collaborative and the DsPH for Cheshire and Merseyside are proud to be part of this initiative and look forward to seeing the service continue to thrive.”
People over the age of 65 can book a Safe and Well Visit on our website - where Cheshire residents can carry out their own home safety check by completing a questionnaire. This can also be done by downloading the free Risk Rater app from the App Store or Google Play store.
This home safety check enables people to generate their own personal home safety plan with advice on how to prevent fires.
Safe and well statistics (new window, PDF 612KB)
Using data-led intelligence to identify vulnerable households, the key delivery mechanism for Cheshire Home Safety Assessments is to those at highest risk from fire. This work involves fire and rescue staff visiting a householder to carry out a risk assessment and provide tailored fire safety advice appropriate to the household circumstances and way of life. Where smoke alarms are not already installed and operating, they are often provided free of charge. Nationally, this work has played a key role in helping to reduce preventable fire deaths in England. Accidental dwelling fire fatalities, which account for three-fifths of all fire fatalities, have reduced by around 50 per cent over the past decade. In line with the national picture, fire deaths, injuries and incidents have reduced dramatically in Cheshire during the same period. This success and proactive intervention work has received recognition and praise from the Cabinet Office, the NHS and Public Health England.