VIEW: On risks in the emergency services

Across all emergency services there is ongoing concern about employee wellbeing, including working long hours, examining disturbing images and being involved in incidents – all of which are contributing factors in long-term mental health sickness absence.

Terrorism is also a growing risk area, given the national and international increase in extremism. All blue light services have to be prepared for terrorism-related emergency incidents. And now, with continued Brexit uncertainty, the emergency services are preparing for possible civil unrest.

Police forces are impacted by the realignment of resources to address threat, harm and risk – specifically investing in areas such as safeguarding, modern slavery and human trafficking. Demand in these areas – particularly child sexual exploitation, missing persons, mental health and domestic abuse – has increased significantly over the past five years. Strong multi-agency partnerships help to address these areas.

Increasing sophistication of cyber-enabled and cyber-dependent crime is also on our watch list. These crimes take longer to investigate, require broader skill sets, and present even more capacity and capability challenges to blue light services.

A shortage of detectives and investigative personnel is being experienced nationally. Combined with an increase in investigative demand, this remains a significant concern.

Fire services are keeping a watchful eye on the downstream consequences of Grenfell. Will there be a reversion of the current arrangements to a more active inspection regime?

All of the above are impacted by continued austerity measures that compound the threats and risks we face. Crime and societal demand have been steadily increasing during a time when workforces and financial resources are reducing.

We are all progressing blue light collaborations with police, fire and ambulance services, as well as local authorities, to enhance operability, reduce demand, and improve efficiency and effectiveness. Emergency organisations will continue with transformation programmes for some years.

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