Age UK and the Fire & Rescue Service – reducing preventable hospital admissions and excess winter deaths

Age UK and the Fire Rescue Service (FRS) in England are encouraging their Partners to work together at a local level to offer an innovative approach to reducing preventable hospital admissions and excess winter deaths through using data to target preventative services at the most vulnerable, older people. This collaboration builds on the best practice already taking place on the ground in parts of the UK. It utilises the very best that the Fire and Rescue Services have to offer in intelligence led prevention and intervention, coupled with the extensive experience and capacity of Age UK to develop smart practices in engaging with those most at risk.

Our joint aim is to improve the quality of life of those we engage with by drawing on the trusted brand and capacity of the FRS, the expertise of local Age UKs, the use of GP registration data to target resources and engagement more effectively. This will help prevent avoidable pressures and impacts on a range of critical health and community services.

Quite often older frail people are at risk from fire much as they are from a range of other factors such as slips trips and falls, loneliness, fuel poverty and in need of benefits maximisation. The FRS have been very successful in developing strategies around intelligence led early intervention and prevention which has seen fire deaths and injuries reduced by half. By working more closely together, the FRSs and Age UK aim to capitalise on this success and bring significant added value and scale up our efforts to engage with older people.

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The Chief Fire Officers Association, the overarching organisation representing FRSs,  has been working with NHS England to give all English FRSs, in the first instance, access to GP registration data known as Exeter Health data.  This critical data enables the FRS to identify all over 65s and target vulnerable households[1]in order to deliver vital home safety assessments.

This unique and innovative way of working with data has received recognition and praise from the Cabinet Office, the Information Commissioners Office and NHS England. Simon Stevens, Head of NHS England is particularly encouraged by the broader opportunities this way of working presents for person-centred approaches and preventative interventions as described in his NHS Five Year Forward Vision.

There is significant public awareness, trust and high levels of satisfaction in our individual brands which strengthens this opportunity and Age UK National see real synergy in the work of its Brand Partners and that of their local FRSs.  Local Age UKs have a wealth of experience in delivering integrated care, wellbeing and navigator type services. Add to this the availability of targeted data and the significant capacity of the FRS and the benefits to older, vulnerable people could be vast.

Combining and targeting our collective resources in such a way has potential benefits for local commissioners, too by delivering greater scale and impact; and giving greater confidence in the use of such vital community resources.

Both Age UK , CFOA and FRSs have a strong track record in reaching and supporting older people with health issues that make them vulnerable and socially isolated, and by definition at risk and more difficult to engage with. One area of the UK  has been in receipt of Exeter Health data  since 2008.

Analysis has shown that fire deaths and injuries[1] have been reduced to half the national average and joint working has seen outcomes for older people adopted more strategically and equitably with benefits rising amongst over 65s by over £8 million, this is but one factor amongst many benefits that has been delivered simply by the two organisations working together more intelligently and strategically.

From July 2015 all English FRSs will have access to data through NHS England. This is  a major milestone and step forward. CFOA and Age UK are encouraging all its Partners to enter a dialogue about the opportunities the data and capacity create to work together at a local level to achieve greater outcomes for older people.

Experience has shown that when FRSs have started targeting with data they come across issues which they may not have the experience to deal with, such as severe loneliness, fuel deprivation, risk from falls etc. In such circumstances, local Age UKs play an essential role in supporting the FRSs  to ensure a successful solution is found to the satisfaction of the people they’re helping.

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As a local Age UK Chief Executive Ken Clemens from Age UK Cheshire has many years of experience of working with the local Fire and Rescue Service developing intelligence led services and interventions. Commenting on this experience Ken said:

“Who would have dreamed that fire service personnel would make such a logical fit or partner for local Age UK franchises. Working with FRS is both motivational and can be highly effective. Over a number of years our work has grown in respect amongst commissioners and health and social care practitioners. Our collaboration has seen the development and joint employment of dementia outreach services, deafness support workers and an increase in uptake in assistive technology. The results have been academically tested and published in the Journal of Public Health and fire deaths and injuries have been acknowledged as being significantly below the national average. We now find ourselves in the unique position of working with commissioners engineering a totally new approach to integrated care”.

Peter Dartford, President of the Chief Fire Officers Association, said:

“Evidence strongly suggests that greater collaboration and partnership working between FRSs and local Age UKs will deliver more effective interventions to some of the most vulnerable people in society. Together we can improve the lives, health, safety and welfare of older people around the UK. Closer working and early intervention at the local level can help reduce pressure on GPs surgeries and hospitals. This is something that all FRSs and local Age UKs should aspire to”.

Commenting on behalf of Age UK, Pam Creaven, Director of Services said:

“The pace of change and challenges facing our health and care economy are staggering. We know that many older people and their families are concerned and worried about what these changes mean for them.  Local people trust and value organisation that are a part of their community, such as their fire service and Age UK. But we know that there are many isolated older people that are unable to get out and access the help and support they need.  Local Age UKs and local fire services working together could therefore really make a difference.  

Our network of local Age UKs covers almost every post code in the UK.  Each local Age UK has tailored its services and support to its community and since I have been in discussion with the Chief Fire Officers Association and Fire and Rescue Services I have learned the same applies to them. Our collective experience and expertise could enable us to support older people better.  I would wish to encourage this coming together at a local level so that older people can benefit from this exciting collaboration as they clearly have in Cheshire. Such a collaboration and presence represents a great opportunity in grasping the challenges associated with a growing ageing population and could help to improve the effectiveness of both the FRSs and Age UKs visions for the future”.

[1] Journal of Public Health Advance Access published September 2012 – An assessment of the impact of home safety assessments on fires and fire-related injuries.


[1] Work involves FRS and/or partners visiting a householders to carry out a risk assessment and provide tailored fire and broader safety advice appropriate to the household circumstances. Where a smoke alarm is not installed and operating in the higher risk households, a device is often provided and fitted free of charge

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