Supporting Blue Light Tri-service Sites

Thomas Aram
The trend towards interoperability across the blue light services has brought both opportunities and challenges for estates provision.

In 2014, the government asked ambulance trusts, fire and rescue authorities and police forces across England and Wales to provide examples of collaboration they were engaged in, and any future plans to collaborate.

This heralded a change of direction for blue light services, which had previously operated largely autonomously. The resulting report Emergency Services Collaboration: The Current Picture (An overview of collaboration in England and Wales, 2014) (PDF, 3.2MB) demonstrated a range of examples of organisations coming together to improve the services they deliver to their communities, and in many instances, saving money in the process.

The Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) was established in 2016 and further addresses the issue of interoperability across the blue light services. The programme highlights the need for a coordinated and resilient approach to major, serious or catastrophic incidents or events.

Collaborative working has brought both opportunities and challenges for estates provision.

JESIP identified five principles for collaborative working: co-location, co-ordination, communication, shared situational awareness and joint understanding of risk. Collaborative working has brought both opportunities and challenges for estates provision.

From an estates perspective, all three emergency services have a proportion of ageing building stock, with many facilities under-utilised – often no longer in the right place and no longer capable of delivering the best service. Co-location offers transformative potential, with opportunities for emergency services to adapt more easily to change and improve ways of working, including making best use of technological innovation.

In response, some authorities are already changing their approach, implementing joint working between traditionally siloed blue light services. They are sharing back office functions, co-responding, joining up on service delivery, and achieving more seamless information-sharing.

Better outcomes for the public have been demonstrated, together with authorities getting more from their resources. We are also seeing the emergence of new adapted facilities to better deal with changing demands of the emergency services, such as life support trained rescue provision and first response teams.

Better outcomes for the public have been demonstrated, together with authorities getting more from their resources.

An increasing demand for services, coupled with the current and anticipated restrictions on funding, means that co-location also makes financial sense. It should be possible to significantly reduce capital and maintenance costs. Two additional funding streams were established to encourage collaboration, and these have the potential to support co-located facilities. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has provided the Transformation Challenge Award and the Fire and Rescue Transformation Fund. Central government set up the Police Innovation Fund, together the funds provide emergency service providers the means to address the change measures highlighted in JESIP.

However, creating the facilities brings some methodological and operational challenges. The blue light services all possess their own organisational culture, with no tradition of shared services, sites or resource. JESIP encourages commitment to interoperable working, but in some cases there may be institutionalised resistance to change. Additionally, a single model doesn’t always fit: communities have individual and specialist needs, and this must be taken into account.

Faithful+Gould has a history of adding value to emergency service providers' capital projects. We understand their specific needs such as one model does not fit all and can combine a range of provision that meets client needs in multi-service projects. Our project management, cost management, building surveying and health & safety teams offer support with new buildings, extensions, refurbishments and maintenance. As the trend towards co-location looks set to gather pace, we anticipate growing demand for these services.

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