Julia Mulligan: Why we should be more like St Helens

Better collaboration between emergency services, such as during the 'Cherished' campaign in other parts of the country, is needed in North Yorkshire
Better collaboration between emergency services, such as during the 'Cherished' campaign in other parts of the country, is needed in North Yorkshire

I’ve never been to St Helens, but this week it has been on my mind a lot. It started when I happened to be listening to Radio 4s ‘You and Yours’ on the way to a meeting earlier this week, and it suddenly dawned on me that I wished North Yorkshire could be more, well, ‘St Helens’.

I say that because I think there is so much more we could be doing to keep people safe, supported and cared for. Whilst really good progress has been made in recent years within policing to work better with each other (a topic of this column many times), and with other public sector partners like the NHS too, but there is still a lot more we could and should be doing.

And that’s where we need to channel our inner St Helens. It seems as though they have a plethora of public sector partners working together to keep people healthy. Services coming together, including the Fire and Rescue Service, to look after people and prevent harm and injury. My foremost focus is of course safety, but the principle still applies. In St Helens for example, fire officers visit many older people’s homes to undertake fire checks or fit smoke alarms. Under this new model though, they will do more. Preventative healthcare, of sorts, will now be part of their day job. As well as fire safety, officers will be undertaking fall risk assessments and helping the NHS pinpoint who might be in need of a bit of extra help and support. Those people then get a special visit from people specialising in preventing falls in the home.

As you’ll know all too well, given most of us will have seen family members go through something similar, elderly people falling over can cause significant damage and often leads to other health issues. Not to mention the cost to the NHS.

Well, in St Helens, fire and rescue are playing their part in keeping older people healthy and independent.

I think there is more like that we could be doing in North Yorkshire, and not just around health, but vulnerability and community safety too. There is very interesting work going on up and down the country, bringing the best out of the emergency services, and others, for the good of communities.

Sadly, in North Yorkshire, it might be best to explain what we aren’t doing. In the recent ‘Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group, National Overview, 2016’, a report summarising the various collaboration work going on across the country, North Yorkshire was mentioned once, in the list at the back naming all the police forces in England and Wales. That isn’t good enough.

That report had in it fantastic examples of policing, fire and often ambulance working together. Tri-service roles for example, where one person has the skills to respond to police, fire and ambulance incidents, shared control rooms, health and wellbeing visits, rural intervention vehicles. The list goes on.

We could, and should, be doing this in North Yorkshire. The positive impact it could have on community safety is enormous. I wrote last month about the emerging crimes policing is dealing with, namely fraud. The very same people who fire safety officers are helping in St Helens are likely to be at high risk of being victims of crimes, like fraud, and by identifying and supporting those people better we could prevent a lot of crime and a lot of harm. The potential is quite staggering.

This isn’t something I thought I’d be saying if you’d asked me last week, but let’s be more St Helens!