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NFCC “pleased” agreement to continue COVID-19 activities now extended

08 June 2020

THOUSANDS OF staff from UK Fire and Rescue Services will continue to support the NHS, ambulance services, local authorities and other vital organisations in the fight against COVID-19 following extensive negotiations involving the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), the National Employer and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

Spanning a number of days, the talks reached an agreement that Fire and Rescue Services will remain at the heart of the ongoing response to COVID-19 and continue to carry out specific activities. This means COVID-19-related activities such as assisting care homes, helping with testing, driving ambulances, face-fitting masks for the NHS/clinical staff and supporting the most vulnerable through making deliveries will continue to take place until at least the tail end of July.

That date could be extended further to 26 August if joint work on reviewing assessments is agreed upon and concluded. 

Speaking on this issue, NFCC chair Roy Wilsher told Fire Safety Matters: “This agreement is testament to Fire and Rescue Service staff being ready, willing and able to play their part in the response to COVID-19, using their wide range of skills and expertise to help those who need it most. The agreement was initially reached back in March, with a number of new activities added as COVID-19 brought new demands. The NFCC was wholly confident that Fire and Rescue Services could assist in the battle against the pandemic and, just as importantly, would want to play a key role in supporting the challenges it has realised.”

Importantly, Wilsher added: “These negotiations have not always been easy, but I knew full well that Fire and Rescue Services would want to continue being at the heart of the response, doing what they do best and supporting those who need help and assistance.”

Learning and experiences

The discussions included reviewing the learning and experiences from the last two months. New requests from the FBU were also brought to the table which required additional consideration as part of the tripartite agreement.

It was also agreed that joint work on reviewing risk assessments would be carried out with the aim of extending the agreement to the aforementioned date of 26 August.  

Important recent additions are the delivery of pre-designed training packages on infection prevention and control, including hand, hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE) ‘donning’ and ‘doffing’ guidance and procedures and supporting care home staff testing (ie training care home staff themselves to train others according to the principle of ‘train the trainers’).

These activities are in addition to Fire and Rescue Services maintaining their standard response to emergency incidents and carrying out core duties such as prevention and building safety duties based on risk.

The 14 additional areas of work in the tripartite agreement include the assembly of single-use face shields for the NHS and care work front line staff, packing/re-packing food supplies for vulnerable people, the transfer of patients to and from Nightingale Hospitals, assisting in taking samples for COVID-19 antigen testing, driving non-blue light ambulance transport, driving instruction, face-fitting masks for front line NHS and clinical staff, the delivery of PPE and other medical supplies, assisting the ambulance service with driving and patient/ambulance support, moving the deceased and supporting the most vulnerable by way of deliveries.