Tory police, fire & ambulance merger plan slammed

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TORY plans to merge fire, ambulance and police services are being pushed forward as the Home Office called for ‘shared control rooms’ yesterday.

The proposal was met with anger by the Fire Brigades Union and health unions alike.

Dave Green, National Officer of the FBU, warned yesterday: ‘These proposals will not actually mean a merging of the services, it will mean a take-over of the fire service – the fire service will become subservient.’

The proposal to share control rooms is seen by the FBU as the government moving to merge the police, fire and ambulance into a ‘single blue light service’. The union opposes the fire service being put under control of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) which would oversee fire brigades, and could even appoint an officer in charge of hiring and firing fire and police staff.

The plan for PCCs to oversee fire services was called ‘dangerous’ by the FBU who said the move would be a ‘costly experiment with no guarantee for success’. The FBU added: ‘There are also practical concerns about how this would work.’ However, the government have wasted no time in pushing their mergers.

Emergency services in some areas of the country are already sharing services.

In Northamptonshire, police, fire and ambulance services are sharing ‘training, premises and a joint operations’, the Home Office said. In Hampshire, senior police officers now operate out of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue HQ. In County Durham they are even piloting a scheme where Police Community Support Officers answer fire or ambulance calls from a special ‘tri-service vehicle’.

GMB organiser for the NHS Rehana Azam told News Line: ‘The GMB organise a large percentage of ambulance workers. This is another project where the government wants to undermine public services to make further cuts and, ultimately, they are just playing with the lives of the public.

‘This is about saving money and so they want all emergency services under one roof.

‘Each service delivers a very important service in its own right. Our task is to ensure that patient safety is not compromised by a government that wants to continuously make cuts, savings and mergers to public services.’

• THE NHS 111 ‘non-emergency’ phone service, an alternative to the 999 emergency service, has been slammed as ‘not fit for purpose’. Baby William Mead, from Cornwall, died in 2014 from blood poisoning that had not been diagnosed by the NHS out-of-hours 111 helpline.

GP Dr Khan said: ‘Is the NHS 111 service fit for purpose, the short answer is no.

‘The key problem is this: systems whereby non-clinicians are having to make key clinical decisions is really unacceptable. If they can make the people who answer the phones clinicians, ideally senior clinicians, senior doctors or senior nurses then we may well be able to continue with the 111 service. Without that it is difficult to see how it can go on.

‘I don’t think that any triage service, any service where patients are being seen for the first time, unfiltered as it were, without anyone else having seen them before, needs to have a clinician at the front door. This applies to accident and emergency departments and general practices and on phone services such as NHS 111.’