Damian Green's speech to the Blue Light Innovation conference

Speech given by Policing Minister Damian Green on Tuesday 19 November 2013 to the Blue Light Innovation conference.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP

Thank you for inviting me to speak today at this ‘blue light innovation conference’. It’s great to see so many professionals from across all the emergency services here to discuss closer working and innovative approaches for the future delivery of the emergency services.

There can be no doubt that the public highly respect the work, and sacrifice, of the emergency services, playing a vital role in serving and protecting communities.

The services share important common goals: helping people in their time of greatest need, preventing harm and keeping people safe. It goes without saying the government is committed to ensuring that the emergency services continue to deliver for the public.

But like all public services, there is a need to consider how future resources can best be used and how delivery can be improved for the public. I believe, along with a growing number of you and others that look at the field carefully, that this improvement is best delivered by deeper and more ambitious joint working between the blue light services.

It makes financial and crucially operational sense as there is much more that binds you together than separates you.

The need for reform

It doesn’t make sense for all the emergency services to have different premises, different back offices, different IT policies and systems and different procurement policies, when their work is so closely related.

For example, the vast majority of fire and police boundaries are already co-terminus. Whilst this could have led to joint estates, over half of police stations in England are separate but within 1km of a fire station.

In the context of station closures and a public appetite for accessible local emergency services, this is just one practical example of why the emergency services need to collaborate to make it easier to meet public expectations.

Knight Review

Sir Ken Knight’s review of the fire and rescue service found significant scope for reform, driving both efficiency and performance in the way PCCs are already doing with policing.

Sir Ken made clear that fire and rescue authorities could not go it alone in delivering the efficiencies and transformational change that the fire service needs in order to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

The report pointed to greater collaboration between the blue light emergency services to drive out inefficiencies and provide more joined up services that deliver savings for taxpayers.

It’s not just Sir Ken saying this. The House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee, in their report on transforming ambulance services, concluded that “ambulance services do not collaborate sufficiently with other emergency services to generate efficiency savings”.

In evidence to the committee, the ambulance services themselves admitted that more could be done. I agree with the PAC and Sir Ken Knight that the emergency services should collaborate to face current and future challenges.

Police Reform and Collaboration

Directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are holding police forces to account and the accountability they bring is generating a driving force for increased efficiency. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has reported some police forces are planning to deliver 94% of their spending review savings through collaboration, with £182m of savings already identified by forces through collaboration over the spending review period.

In Warwickshire and West Mercia, the two PCCs oversee a strategic alliance that is cutting costs while retaining local policing and accountability. Not cuts makings services worse, but collaboration making services better.

You’ll be hearing from Ron Ball, the PCC for Warwickshire, later today and I hope, like me, you’ll be impressed by what can be achieved through joint working. Warwickshire is looking to deliver that 94% of spending review savings though collaboration.

Emergency Services Collaboration

Many PCCs are looking not just to reform and make savings by collaboration with other police forces, but also with other emergency services. We need to see more of this.

There is already innovative work taking place between PCCs, fire authorities and ambulance trusts and it’s clear that where the emergency services collaborate they can deliver efficiencies.

In Hampshire, the fire service, police force and the county council are joining up corporate services and expect to save around £4 million a year.

In Merseyside, which you’ll hear more about later, the PCC, Jane Kennedy, signed the contract for the building work to begin on a joint police and fire command and control centre.

Matthew Grove, the PCC in Humberside, made clear after his election that he wanted to see long term savings delivered from emergency services collaboration. He is now working with the fire authority to achieve significant savings by developing a joint vehicle and equipment workshop.

In Surrey, the PCC and Chief Constable, are leading the way with a full programme of collaboration between the police, fire and south east coast ambulance. Their collaboration will see the three services join forces to find ways of streamlining operations, sharing more premises and delivering joint safety campaigns, as well as looking to link up with Sussex’s emergency services. Going further still, in Northamptonshire, the Police and Crime Commissioner, with the support of the County Council, is behind much closer collaborative working between fire and police.

As well as fire and police sharing stations, the Chief Fire Officer and his senior management team have moved from their base three miles away to the police force headquarters. The move has sent a clear message to fire and police officers and staff, as well as the public, that they want to move beyond the traditional ways of working.

The Northamptonshire PCC has also been open about his ambition for integration of the emergency services in his county. This is something Sir Ken Knight said has the potential to deliver considerable gains.

This sort of innovation is already beginning to happen all over the country, driven by PCCs not Whitehall, is exactly what we want to see and support.

In the Spending Round in June, the Chancellor declared government will drive greater integration of local emergency services.

Government funds

We are taking an important first step in delivering on our commitment by providing funding for innovation and transformation in the emergency services.

A Police Innovation Fund is being established from 2014/15, worth up to £50 million per year. The Fund will incentivise collaboration, including with other emergency services, and enable PCCs to invest in other innovative delivery approaches that have the potential to improve policing and deliver further efficiency.

I believe that emergency services collaboration shouldn’t have to wait. Therefore, to allow PCCs to press ahead with transformation, we are making £20 million available to PCCs as a precursor Innovation Fund in this financial year.

Further, DCLG have announced for 2015-16 a total of £75 million of funding to support transformational change in the fire service.

That adds up to a total of £195m over 3 years that is open to the blue light services to bid for to take forward joint working to save money and deliver improved services for the public. Further details on the bidding process and criteria for the police innovation fund will be set out shortly and I want those bids to be ambitious that will deliver real transformation.

Local accountability

Real reform and innovation needs leaders to drive forward change.

The Knight Review found that progress could be “hindered by local relationships” and concluded “economies of scale are likely to be missed in this way without greater leadership”.

Accountability and leadership is vital in ensuring the emergency services deliver in a way that meets the needs of the community and allows the services to be held to account by that local community.

Sir Ken stated that PCCs “could clarify accountability arrangements and ensure more direct visibility to the electorate” and he raised the prospect of PCCs taking on responsibility for the fire and rescue service.

If we are to truly increase local accountability and deliver the much needed reform of fire services, as we have done in policing, this is something we need to consider seriously.

PCCs benefit from clear accountability at the local level and have a strong incentive to ensure reform is ambitious enough to improve services and deliver value for money. The government response to the Knight Review will set out our direction, but I want to be clear now that we want to work with PCCs, fire authorities and all the emergency services to build on what is already happening and to drive this forward by removing barriers and unlocking opportunities.

Pressure on police from ambulance services

One area for improvement where I want to see PCCs leading reform is the demand the police and ambulance services place on each other.

Police officers are crime-fighters. Yet too often they are relied upon in situations where an ambulance or paramedic is more appropriate.

The Home Secretary has already made a number of announcements about policing and mental health. This will ensure those who require treatment – and have committed no crime – are seen by medical professionals, not put in police cells. This in turn, can free up police time.

We’re making real progress on this. The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives is drawing up a national protocol on the transportation of people in mental health crisis which will be put in place next April and they are also part of a wide collective of national organisations working on a Concordat to improve outcomes for people experiencing mental health crisis.

I would now like to see the progress we’ve made on mental health continue and extend to those situations where the police are faced with delays when medical assistance – physical or mental - is required.

When is it ever appropriate for the police to be the only response to a medical emergency?

We know from evidence collated by the Police Federation that there are significant issues, with some police officers conveying critically ill patients to hospital or facing a long wait for an ambulance.

For example, on one occasion ambulance control requested police attend a report of a 14 year old girl having taken an overdose. An ambulance couldn’t attend and the police took the girl to hospital, as the police always will. They are sometimes described as the service of last resort, but shouldn’t become the service of first resort.
On another occasion, a female victim of a domestic dispute suffered injuries requiring medical treatment. The ambulance service had no resources available within half an hour of the incident and, again, the police conveyed the patient to hospital.

In London, the Met Police and London Ambulance Service are working closely together to manage the increasing demand on both services. They are implementing a series of innovative tactics, including the creation of joint response units in high demand boroughs at peak times, with a dedicated paramedic car for police requests for medical assistance.

Whilst there is still work to do, the improvement for both services are encouraging, with the joint response units reducing the average time the police are waiting from 36 minutes to just 5 minutes.

Further, the joint working has seen a sustained reduction in wider ambulance delays to Met Police calls and a drop of police conveyance of patients to A&E.

Closer joint working will not only reduce pressures on both services, but will help those needing medical treatment. I would encourage PCCs to drive closer working, of the kind seen in London, in order to deliver a more efficient service.


I’ve spoken about the day to day collaboration and closer working. We also know that it is vitally important to ensure that emergency services personnel are trained and exercised to work together to respond to a major or complex incident.

Although the response to major incidents from our emergency services is among the best in the world, we are not complacent.

The Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) has united support across government, including from the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, and colleagues in the Cabinet Office, Communities and Local Government and Department of Health.

JESIP has introduced new joint doctrine as well as rolling out an innovative training programme to be delivered on a tri-service basis.

The programme is deliberately led by the emergency services, which is why I’m pleased Roy, Chair of JESIP’s strategic board, follows me today to speak in more detail about the work the programme does to improve interoperability.

Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme

Another key area for interoperability is mobile communication, including the coverage and resilience of the mobile network.

The Emergency Services Mobile Communications programme brings together all the relevant government departments with all the services involved. The programme provides an opportunity for communication services to be delivered:

  • Cheaper – the current cost of these services is estimated at £300m centrally and in the region of £100m currently spent locally, some of which could be consolidated.

  • Better – by providing users with broadband as a core service, with appropriate security and resilience.

  • Smarter – by providing users with a scalable range of features.

The programme’s Chief Technology Officer will speak later today, but I want to encourage you, as emergency services professionals, to challenge how your processes can change as a result of mobile technology rather than to merely apply the technology to existing processes. This should be about reengineering the whole systems that will deliver better benefits from mobile communications technology.

Next steps

To be clear, these two programmes once again show that you all have more in common to bring you together than things that keep you apart. The government has set out a clear ambition to drive greater collaboration between the emergency services to deliver efficiencies and, above all, better outcomes for the public.

Thank you for your continued commitment to public protection, reducing harm and, ultimately, saving lives. More collaboration will mean better performance, better services and better delivery for the public.

Published 19 November 2013