Police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds has outlined a vision of the future where police, fire and ambulance services are amalgamated into a single emergency response service.
Speaking to delegates of the Chief Fire Officers’ Association autumn conference on Thursday morning, Mr Simmonds described how tighter budgets and increasing pressures on ‘blue light’ services would force closer workiing in the short term and he predicted a single service might be the answer in 20 years time.
He said: “Imagine that a young man and woman who feel called to public service, who want to make a contribution to their local community see an advert in the paper or online for ‘emergency service officers’.
“The advert asks them to consider saving, protecting and defending lives and communities; it offers a wide range of opportunities for development and growth; it says they’ll be trained in multidisciplinary areas and it guarantees variety, pace and a life less ordinary.
“You see this hypothetical 20 years from now allows young people to receive basic training covering public service values, core skills of life saving and community protection, the law and what prevention and early intervention is all about. What community leadership is and how it’s made real.
“As these young people are joined by hundreds and thousands of others we begin to train and develop a generation of emergency service officers who have a loyalty to one service but experience and skills and vision across many different areas.
“Who once trained after a comprehensive training programme will be deployed by single control rooms to many different incidents and crises and be able to adapt and respond. Who will rotate specialisms throughout their careers and who will use powers as and when they are needed.
“Am I talking about a police car turning up to a fire with a ladder on the roof and buckets of water in the boot? No. But I am talking about an emergency response team turning up to an incident and deploying the skills they own to the situation they’ve been sent to without thinking which agency is needed because there’s only one agency now.”
Mr Simmonds added: “Turning more specifically and perhaps to a more practical argument related to how emergency services respond to incidents, there are clearly times when police, fire and ambulance services all send a response to the same incident.
“Clearly, in the new world that we find ourselves in as a result of budgetary constraints, it may not in the future be practicably possible to send three separate emergency vehicles to the same incident.
“Back to the future I described earlier, we could perhaps consider sending just one vehicle to the incident, equipped with the relevant cutting equipment and the people trained to use them, equipped with the relevant medical equipment and someone with relevant medical expertise, and someone with the skills to maintain the scene of a potential crime.
“Whilst it may not be the way we work now, it has to be a brighter way of working in the future.”
Collaboration between the police and fire services has already been seen with the sharing of headquarters.
In February, the Chief Fire Officer, Martyn Emberson and his senior management team moved from their headquarters at Moulton Park to police force headquarters at Wootton Hall.
And in August the first Police-Fire station was launched in Thrapston.
The chief officers of both Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service are now looking at further expanding the number of co-located premises in the county.
Mr Simmonds said: “Of course the ambulance service will also have an interest in co-location as well, as we know that there are plans afoot to significantly reduce the number of ambulance stations in our county.”