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Research reveals new opportunities for closer collaboration between emergency services

The national lead working group on emergency service collaboration warmly welcomes the publication today (Friday 27th March) of research into joint working between blue light services up and down the country.

The Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group (ESCWG) commissioned the study to identify the factors that have resulted in a number of very positive collaborations and the main barriers to increasing the scope and speed of collaboration between services in England and Wales.

The research by the Universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and West Scotland in conjunction with the charity Skills for Justice, was commissioned to identify how services could work together to improve delivery at a time of restricted public funding.

More than 50 in-depth interviews were conducted as part of the study with emergency service leaders and front line staff in Greater Manchester, Surrey, Sussex, South Wales and Gwent, Lincolnshire, Hampshire and Northamptonshire.

The views of Chief Fire Officers, Chief Constables, Ambulance Chief Executives, Fire Authority Chairs, Police and Crime Commissioners and emergency service unions in England and Wales were also sought.

Importantly, the public were also surveyed and the results showed an overwhelming number of people believed the emergency services should work together more often to deliver better services.

The researchers identified a number of collaboration opportunities ranging in scale of complexity from the sharing of control rooms and estates through to joint training programmes and the merging of local emergency service budgets and governance structures.

Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd, whose office oversees the ESCWG, said: “The research undertaken by the universities and Skills for Justice highlights the potential for further collaboration across the county. It is clear from the report that there is strong public support for the emergency services working closer together.

“The next Government now has an opportunity to help deliver more joined up working between the emergency services, by further supporting local services to develop collaboration and breaking down the barriers and professional silos that unfortunately still exist in some places. This support will help our blue light services work together even more effectively to put the needs of the public at the heart of what they do.”

President of the Chief Fire Officers Association, Peter Dartford, said: “This report identifies the great progress that has already been made by the emergency services in working collaboratively for the benefit of our communities. We want to work with our blue light partners to improve outcomes in health, education, crime and disorder and economic development, and we know that the public wants us to cooperate to deliver these services.

“The innovative partnerships that the report illustrates are a fine example of the good practice that is being undertaken, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to work to overcome barriers and issues that stand in the way of more collaboration.”

Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) Managing Director Martin Flaherty OBE, said: "This interesting research shows how much hard work is already going into sensible and appropriate joint working initiatives across the emergency services, and underlines how there are undoubted benefits of closer collaboration where our services overlap.

“However, it is important to remember that each of the three services has different objectives, and the ambulance service is first and foremost an intrinsic part of the NHS providing a wide range of clinical services - not just an emergency response – meaning in reality there are actually relatively few crossovers in front line services between ourselves, fire & rescue and the police.

“That said AACE’s members remain firmly committed to the concept of closer working between the three blue light services on any new initiatives that are sensible, workable and deliver genuine benefits for patients and the public.” 

Going forward, ESCWG will use the research to work with the Government following the general election in May to identify ways to deliver greater collaboration among services in England and Wales.