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Developed and maintained
by the NFCC

Where we are now

IO3: National standards and guidance


Quality and competence

Expending significant time and energy on service deployment is appropriate because this determines a significant element of the required resources and costs of the service. In effect, though, efficient deployment only ensures that employees are available to deliver services, whether those services are in prevention, protection or response.

As outlined in Improvement objective 1, to deliver the best outcomes for the public, the quality of services delivered by those who are deployed or mobilised has to be of at least equal importance. the government's emphasis for fire and rescue services over the last 15 years has been to manage services locally, with little in the way of central guidance and no inspectorate to give public assurance of consistency or quality. This has now changed with the introduction of the Fire Standards Board (FSB) and a redefined role for HMIC to become the inspectorate for fire and rescue services (HMICFRS). The most recent report on tranche 2 of HMICFRS inspections picks this point up strongly and makes a key recommendation about resourcing central support to aid improvement across all fire and rescue services. 

In terms of response, the lack of national consistency in operational guidance was having an effect on the outcomes of incidents and on firefighter safety.  As well as there being significant concern within the service, HM Coroners were levelling criticism at the service for the poor state of its national guidance. This led, eight years ago, to the creation of a programme of work to deliver new National Operational Guidance (NOG) that could be used by all services to deliver their response services to a consistent high-quality standard. 

The NOG programme was delivered by a team that was governed by professionals, the LGA and central government all seeking to achieve an agreed improvement. It is the success of that collaborative programme that lies behind proposing a series of joint improvement objectives within this business case. These objectives need to be responded to in the same way as the issue of NOG was – through a programmatic, structured approach, jointly supported by service leaders.

Each fire and rescue service is responsible for the selection, training, ongoing development and support of its employees. The evidence of recent HMICFRS inspections indicates that many services could improve the way this is done. There is clear evidence that the operational competence of Employees delivering response services is no longer a matter of inconsistent or inadequate Operational Guidance. It is a matter of implementation and use of that Guidance in the way staff are selected, trained and managed to undertake their roles within all fire and rescue services. As well as continuing to maintain and develop operational guidance, central resources to lead implementation across all services is needed. In areas other than operations there is a need to improve the structure of training and development across all fire and rescue services.

The National Employers (England), the LGA and the NFCC recognise the vital importance of the people who work within fire and rescue services. In effect, the people that work in the service make the service what it is. Making sure the best people are available to fire and rescue services, ensuring they are supported, trained, encouraged and led to the highest standards. There is often criticism in some quarters of the role of Employee representative groups in fire and rescue services. Engaging closely with Employee representatives, in partnership, to address the common issues recognised by all is the best approach. 

Employees need to have rewarding and relevant roles, work in a way that is safe; to be able to see that what they do makes a difference to their communities; and be supported by top quality training and welfare support. They need to be led consistently by high quality, well-motivated and competent managers. Each service must continue to strive to achieve all this. Appropriate levels of pay also needs to reflect the high expectations and skills of employees. 

As previously described, the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry Phase 1 report focuses heavily on the issues of staff competence and training. The recommendations focus on competence of staff working with high risk, high-rise buildings. The implications of this are, however, much wider.  The expectations in the report can be more broadly applied to other buildings as the fundamental issue is about recognising, assessing and responding to risks. This and output from the first two tranches of inspection reports are stark reminders of the need to focus on not only developing competence but maintaining it through robust training regimes. 

Training is only part of the picture, employees need to be able to apply the learning in a complex, rapidly developing and dangerous environment in partnership with other organisations.