Firefighters to make face shields for health and care staff and transfer patients to and from Nightingale hospitals
Firefighters will be coming to the aid of health and care staff in the COVID-19 crisis by constructing vital protective face shields for use on the frontline after an agreement was reached between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), and fire service National Employers.
Under the latest agreement, firefighters, who are already driving ambulances in parts of the country, will also now begin transferring both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients from Nightingale hospitals.
Firefighters are already delivering food and medicines to vulnerable people in many services and the latest agreement will also allow them to package and repackage food supplies, as well as assemble single-use face shields for NHS and care staff.
NHS and care staff have reported a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) with bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing informing members that they have a right to walk away if they are not properly protected. Now, firefighters are joining the effort to keep them safe.
The FBU has secured assurances that both the food packaging and repackaging, as well as the shield assembly, will not be undertaken for profit-making organisations.
As with all new areas of work, the agreement is temporary for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. Appropriate PPE and risk assessments are mandatory and any personnel who do not wish to carry out the work will not be forced to do so.
It follows previous agreements allowing firefighters to drive patients to and from non-emergency appointments and to transport those in need of urgent care; to fit face masks and deliver vital PPE; to support the delivery of antigen swab tests; and to move dead bodies in areas with mass-casualties.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:
“Our NHS and care staff are facing the fight of their lives, so firefighters are temporarily taking on sweeping new areas of work to help them through the crisis. That now includes transporting patients to and from Nightingale Hospitals and assembling vital protective equipment that the government has so far failed to provide in proper numbers.
“After a decade of damage from austerity, public services can only get through this crisis by pulling together and our members are proud to step up to help. This pandemic is further proof that properly resourced public services are not only the foundations on which society is built but also the first line of defence when crises like this arrive.
“Across the country, firefighters are already driving ambulances, delivering PPE and supplies, and moving the bodies of those who have tragically died. We hope these new areas of work will go further to help our fellow emergency services through this unprecedented crisis.”