In the early stages of lockdown, the NFCC, FBU and the national employer confirmed that additional activities to assist other key services during the pandemic had been agreed for FRS staff, including mask face fitting, delivering personal protective equipment (PPE), administering tests, and driving as well as training on driving ambulances.

In April, a further agreement saw 300 London Fire Brigade (LFB) firefighters drive ambulances and assist paramedics in London’s pandemic response, after news that firefighters would aim to protect the vulnerable in society by avoiding hospitals and care homes, as part of an agreed ‘critical risk-based service’.

Prior to this, FRS staff had been confirmed to be undertaking COVID-19 antigen testing, driving non blue light ambulance transport and non COVID patients, and training others to drive ambulances for the same services. Other activities ‘are being requested by partner organisations, which are still under discussion’.

Last month, it was revealed that over 4,000 FRS staff have volunteered to assist the other key services during the pandemic, while a further 10,000 staff are ‘on standby to assist as and when required’. Most recently, the three bodies agreed firefighters can build protective face shields for frontline NHS staff and care staff, and can also begin transferring patients from and to Nightingale hospitals, alongside packaging and repackaging food supplies.

Now, the NFCC has confirmed that FRSs will now ‘be offering to work with local partners to support care homes’ in their efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, with the NFCC, FBU and national employer agreeing that ‘helping those who need it most is in the DNA of [FRS] staff; showing their dedication and commitment to those who need it most’.

The new agreement will be ‘underpinned with a robust risk assessment’ that supports FRS staff ‘carrying out the work and to keep them safe’, with ‘appropriate’ and ‘pre-designed’ training provided alongside PPE and ‘high standards of hygiene, with social distancing in place’. Training on infection prevention and control will be given ‘where needed’, covering hand, hygiene, PPE use guidance and procedures.

It will also allow for staff to support care home staff testing, allowing the latter group to ‘train others’, and NFCC chair Roy Wilsher commented: ‘This initiative means [FRSs] will be working with local partners and care home staff, assisting in the fight against COVID-19. This agreement means we can ensure those who need help, receive it. Care homes remain a cause of concern in relation to COVID-19 cases.

‘[FRSs’] knowledge, skills and capabilities mean they have a lot of expertise to offer and can play a significant role in helping care homes through training staff to increase their confidence and knowledge, while helping keep residents safe. Once again, this shows staff across [FRSs] are ready, willing and able to take on additional duties and help wherever support is needed during times of crisis.

‘This support and assistance is in the DNA of fire staff and shows their dedication and commitment to helping those who need it.’