Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

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Fire and Rescue Services win health award for bowel cancer screening scheme

Fire and Rescue Services win health award for bowel cancer screening scheme


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service have won a prestigious health award for their pioneering new scheme focusing on bowel cancer screening.

The two services’ Safe and Well visits have won a Healthcare Transformation Award in the category of Improving Cancer Outcomes, alongside their partners Public Health England, NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside) and Cancer Research UK.

Firefighters from the two services have regularly visited the homes of vulnerable people over 65 to give advice on fire safety for a number of years.

But, since February this year, both services have partnered with the NHS to provide some health advice as well to try and reduce the number of emergency visits to hospital.

Crews, and specially trained fire advocates, issue advice on how to avoid a trip or fall in the home, who to contact if people want to stop smoking or drinking and, crucially, advice on bowel cancer screening.

As a result, Safe and Well visits carried out by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service generate around 120 referrals for bowel cancer screening each month.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service carried out 15,935 Safe and Well visits in Cheshire from February to June this year which resulted in 1,098 bowel cancer referrals.

Phil Byrne, Station Manager at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Fire and rescue services have a unique ability to access homes of vulnerable people and we are pleased to be including such a worthwhile project as part of our home safety engagement work.

“The feedback from staff conducting Safe and Well visits, and the positive results, show the benefits of face-to-face communication.

“Our staff have had the opportunity to explain to clients in their home the benefits of the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme and ensure the correct and appropriate screening kits are sent out directly from the Bowel Cancer Screening Hub in Rugby.

“In our first month we completed 574 Safe and Well visits generating 129 requests for screening kits. This partnership work with NHS England and Cancer Research UK will no doubt improve uptake in the screening programme and emphasise the value that the fire and rescue Services bring to the safety and wellbeing of our communities.”

Julie Kelly, Head of Public Health NHS England North, Cheshire and Merseyside, said: "Regular bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16 percent.

“Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be effective. This initiative is an excellent example of local organisations working together for the benefit of the populations we serve."

Experts from Cancer Research UK were responsible for giving fire service staff their training on the screening scheme.

Anna Murray, Primary Care Engagement Facilitator at Cancer Research, said: "Although bowel cancer screening has been a National Screening Programme since 2006, the percentage of people who take part remains low compared to breast and cervical screening.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that fire service personnel receive appropriate training to be able to deliver this innovative scheme.

"Any work that aims to increase early diagnosis and prevention of cancer in the population should be commended."

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