The National Health Service is working with firefighters under a new partnership that seeks to address potential health and social issues at an earlier stage, in order to help people live longer, more independent lives and reduce winter pressures on care systems.

Five organisations - NHS England, Public Health England, the Fire and Rescue Service, Age UK and the Local Government Association - have today signed up to a new ‘Consensus’ promising to work together to encourage local action that could prevent or minimise demand on health and care services and boost quality of life.

Under the plans, firefighters across the nation will undertake more ‘safe and well’ checks in vulnerable people’s homes - of which they already carry out 670,000 a year - assessing not only potential fire hazards but also health risks such as falls, loneliness and isolation. It is hoped that the move will also reduce visits to A&E, broken hips and depression.

Firefighters “are perfectly placed to spot the dangers facing the most vulnerable when making their hundreds of thousands of visits each year to homes across the country,” said Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, noting that the new agreement “will help ensure older people, and those with complex needs, get the care and support they need to live healthier, more independent lives”.

The move stems from the ever-increasing demand on NHS services, culminating in a crisis last winter that saw numerous hospitals declaring ‘major incidents’ as they struggled to cope with the influx of patients. It is hoped that joint-working between public services could help ease this pressure, but the move also fits nicely with the NHS Five Year Forward View, in which reducing the burden of ill health is a central vein.