NHS England has signed a deal with Fire and Rescue Services to conduct health checks on vulnerable people in their homes.
The deal has come as NHS England has identified that there are ‘common risk factors between health and fire services which increase demand such as multi-morbidity, cognitive impairment, smoking, drugs, alcohol, physical inactivity, obesity, loneliness and cold homes’.
It said fire services are already conducting 670,000 home safety checks yearly and that these were ‘based on risk factors the NHS would recognise’.
Many visits ‘already include some health interventions, like a hearing test to check the fire alarm can be heard, to assessing risk of falls and trips and fitting equipment’, it said.
NHS England’s deputy director for long term conditions Jacquie White said in a blog on the NHS England website that by switching to ‘preventing rather than just reacting to’ fires 15 years ago when it realised that the ‘increasing number of fires made chasing demand the wrong strategy’, the FRS has managed to cut demand for firefighting by 50% – saying this was something the NHS would ‘wish to emulate’.
In wide-ranging new public health guidance released last year, NICE said GP practices should check at least once a year whether their elderly or vulnerable patients are at risk from living in a cold home, and where needed refer them for help.