On a recent trip to Hong Kong I visited Lamma Island, where the only vehicle on the island is a small van, which is used as a joint emergency vehicle for the police, fire and ambulance service.
In light of the latest round of budget cuts, I wonder how long it will be before serious consideration is given to a similar merging of the emergency services in Lancashire.
This may not be as far fetched as you initially think, as the Government has already been considering placing oversight of the fire service under the jurisdiction of the Police and Crime Commissioner. In Lancashire recently, the ambulance service placed personnel in the police control room, to assist them in dealing with excessive demand on their own services. As funding for the emergency services is reduced in future years, the most obvious way of saving money could be for the services to be co-located, to share communications rooms and other management services.
What bothers me about this is that it appears to be happening at times due to knee jerk events, rather than any wider Government strategic planning.
Each of the emergency services is creaking under the impact of the cuts and significant cracks are appearing. It appears obvious that at some point one or all of the emergency services, somewhere in the country, are going to collapse under the weight of demand.
Rather than waiting for that to happen, surely it would be better for someone at a national level to provide a ‘future vision’ for the emergency services. Then pragmatic decisions can be made to work towards that goal, rather than time, money and effort being wasted on simply keeping the wheel on.
Perhaps something may be announced after the general election, but I won’t be holding my breath. In the meantime it’s clear that the public expectations of the emergency services is now far too high, in light of the cuts.
Demands have to be reduced and one issue that needs addressing urgently is those who call on the emergency services when they don’t have an emergency.
I think the emergency services should publish on a daily basis all the calls for their services that are inappropriate.
The effort wasted answering and responding to non-urgent 999 calls must be reduced, and perhaps it’s now time for the most blatant and persistent offenders to be fined!