Press Statement

Second Tranche of HMICFRS Inspection Reports

Last year, for the first time in 12 years, the fire and rescue sector was independently inspected by HMICFRS. This resulted in 14 inspection reports from their first tranche of inspections in England.

The results were mixed but there was a common theme among most of the reports which demonstrated that services were not looking after their own people very well and that there was a great deal of room for improvement, this came as no surprise to us.

Today, 16 more reports have been published which provide a similar spread of ‘Good’ performing services and others who are ‘Requiring Improvement’, demonstrating that regional differences mean that there is too much variation in how well the public are protected. The two standout services are West Sussex and Northamptonshire both of which received a revisit from HMICFRS due to significant concerns over a range of issues. These two services had been identified by the FRSA to the Home Office in recent years due to information provided to us by our members.

The inspections confirmed that seven FRS required improvement in one or more of the areas that covered ‘Effectiveness’, ‘Efficiency’ and ‘People’ with one service deemed inadequate under the ‘People’ pillar. The NFCC and some Fire Authorities are already claiming that these results are overall positive but our view is very different. For those who serve within the services that have already been inspected, with the notable exceptions who received strong inspections (a handful), the reports make for grim reading.

The firefighters in all services are quite rightly held in high esteem by the public, undertaking a duty that most are unable to even contemplate. Instead they put their lives and health at risk while serving the public and providing protection to their communities.

It is therefore clear that the areas where services are seriously lacking is management, leadership and governance. This isn’t necessarily about money either, with Shropshire (a County FRS) performing well yet Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire (both Combined FA) both of which came out as requiring improvement in all three areas.

There are of course some positives included within the reports and we expect FRSs to learn from each other through good and poor practice but it is only when senior managers seek to improve on areas that require development that an organisation moves forward for the benefit of all parties, staff and the public.

Our main focus from both this and the previous tranche of inspections is where services need to improve how they look after and manage their staff. Poor mental health among firefighters is on the rise and it is no coincidence that these reports have highlighted failings in this area.  We believe that our members deserve better treatment by their managers than is currently the case, for a number of services to be judged as ‘requiring improvement’ when it comes to looking after its people is simply unacceptable. The fact that the inspections have finally brought out into the open these failings is a positive step.

Once all fire services in England have been inspected HMICFRS will publish its first ‘State of Fire’ report in December. The inspectorate is then expected to make recommendations about the changes needed across the service in these future reports.

We very much welcome the involvement of HMICFRS in an attempt to drive improvement across all areas of all services in England to the benefit of our members and public safety.

Tristan Ashby

Chief Executive Officer

Overall Pillar Grades:

1. How effective are the services at keeping people safe and secure?

Number of FRSs with a ‘Good’ judgement – 9
Number of FRSs with a ‘Requires Improvement’ judgement – 7

2. How efficient are the services at keeping people safe and secure?

Number of FRSs with a ‘Good’ judgement – 9
Number of FRSs with a ‘Requires Improvement’ judgement – 7

3. How well do the services look after their people?

Number of FRSs with a ‘Good’ judgement – 8
Number of FRSs with a ‘Requires Improvement’ judgement – 7
Number of FRSs with an ‘Inadequate’ judgement – 1

All reports can be found on the HMICFRS website.