Earlier this month, an agreement between the FBU, NFCC and fire and rescue services (FRSs) saw 300 London Fire Brigade (LFB) firefighters drive ambulances and assist paramedics in London’s pandemic response, after last month’s 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’.

The NFCC has now reported on the expanded duties for firefighters agreed for the duration of the pandemic, including carrying out face fitting for masks for frontline NHS and clinical staff working patients, as well as delivering PPE and other medical supplies. Prior to that, 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’, with negotiations on these to ‘continue over the coming days’. NFCC chair Roy Wilsher said: ‘This is further testament that firefighters across the UK are ready, willing and able to take on additional work, supporting the response to the current COVID19 pandemic.

‘While the agreement and dialogue is welcomed, I would like to see other requests being agreed more quickly. This would ensure additional support for local partners is delivered at speed. This also includes responding to major incidents which are being declared across the country. However, I am pleased that NFCC, the national employers and representative bodies have shown their commitment to working together.

We are all playing our part in supporting the COVID-19 response and ensuring our colleagues in the health service and other partners have our full backing, with on the ground, tactical support. [FRSs] have a “can do” ethic and the skills and capability to carry out this work, Services want to deploy these and support communities across the UK; which the public quite rightly expect us to do. All want to play their part in supporting the current situation, while maintaining the essential services they provide, including operational response.

‘We will continue to work in the progressive way described by our representative bodies to make sure the health, safety and welfare of FRS staff is managed so that we can respond positive to all requests for support. Once again, we see our fire and rescue services staff being ready, willing and able to take on additional work to support the response to COVID-19.

‘Their dedication and commitment is outstanding. Staff want to be at the heart of the response, using their wide range of skills and capabilities. Services want to support communities across the UK, which the public quite rightly expect us to do. By working together, we are playing our part in supporting the COVID-19 response and making sure we can offer a world-class response to the public, the health service and other partners.

‘We look forward to carrying out this work, while continuing to respond to major incidents and carrying out other vital work, including core duties.’