Blue light working group

12 January 2015

I have attended a number of conferences in recent weeks talking about emergency service collaboration and hearing from service leaders about their experiences of working together. It strikes me that the really successful projects have some simple principles at their heart.

When services leaders come together to put the needs of the public at the heart of what they do, collaboration works. Furthermore, the projects that appear to be the most successful are the ones that move beyond discussions about the differences between the workforces, such as conditions of service and culture, and go quickly on to how to improve outcomes.

After all, despite the differences between our emergency services, there is a shared agenda which is improving the outcomes for the public we serve.

Some examples in point are Kent Fire & Rescue Service and Kent Police, which despite cultural differences have moved to a single control room and will be using a single mobilising system by the end of the year. Collaboration here has allowed multiagency commanders to manage an incident with full awareness of the situation while also saving the taxpayer over two million by 2020-21.

In Wales services are going even further. South Wales police force, Mid and West Wales and South Wales fire and rescue services and the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust are currently developing a shared control room.

From inception, they have decided to place operators from different services in the same room and utilise shared communications. This is very encouraging and illustrates how they are putting the needs of the public at the heart of what they are trying to achieve. The Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group that I sit on has recently published an overview of collaboration across England and Wales (Emergency Services Collaboration: The Current Picture).

The overview contains some fantastic examples of collaboration and the group has established a peer-to-peer network to assist those services wishing to quickly adopt best practice.

In his review of fire and rescue services, Sir Ken Knight suggests that it is time to assess properly what is truly innovative from that which should be considered standard practice, and to get on with implementing it. I could not agree more. The sharing of public buildings now has to be considered standard practice – the need to share estates is a no brainer and is a public expectation.

What we need to focus on now is creating the ‘architecture’ for supporting sustainable long-term collaboration. This will involve us overcoming barriers and importantly unlocking opportunities for services to go much further in their collaboration.

National projects such as JESIP (Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme) have gone a long way to ensuring our emergency services collaborate in the heat of an incident, but we need to quickly identify how we sustain this national focus on interoperability and how we can go further and develop new shared capabilities.

It is interesting to see that the Republic of Ireland has just rolled out a single training standard for all response drivers across the emergency services. Standardisation and a move to intra-operability is one route to realising efficiencies and delivering closer working – but there are others.

For me this is not about creating new bureaucracies, we must however find some mechanism at the national level for the emergency sector as a whole to own, develop and drive forward sustainable collaboration and interoperability.

Collaboration is of course not the panacea to all of the pressures faced by emergency services but if services look across the country and adopt some of the collaborative work already being delivered, we will move a long way towards solving some of our most intractable problems.

David Lloyd is Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire. His office provides support to the Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group, which he also sits on representing the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

For more information on the peer-to-peer collaboration network please email info@999collaboration.org.uk.

 

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