Hereford and Worcester 2018/19Read more about Hereford and Worcester
This is HMICFRS’s first annual assessment of fire and rescue services. This assessment examines the service’s effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people. It is designed to give the public information about how their local fire and rescue service is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable with other services across England.
The extent to which the service is effective at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.
The extent to which the service is efficient at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks requires improvement.
The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
HM Inspector's summary
We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service. But there are areas where the service needs to make improvements.
The service keeps people safe from fire and other emergencies in an effective manner. It is good at:
- understanding risk;
- protecting the public through fire regulation;
- responding to fires and emergencies; and
- responding to national risks.
But it does need to improve its prevention activity.
The service needs to improve the way it looks after its people. This is particularly the case in these areas:
- promoting the right values and culture;
- ensuring fairness and promoting diversity; and
- managing performance and developing leaders.
However, it is good at getting the right people with the right skills.
It needs to provide a more efficient service, particularly in the way it uses resources. But it provides an affordable service.
Overall we would like to see improvements in the year ahead.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.
The service is good at understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies. Its plan to manage risk is based on a range of information. However, mobile computer systems are not updated fast enough with this risk information. The service recognises this and has plans in place to address this. Community engagement could also be better, to help understand local risk.
The service needs to improve how it prevents fires and other risk. Its prevention plan does not explain how or when things will be done. The service has extended its home fire safety checks to include questions about vulnerable people. Further training is needed to give staff more confidence in this process. The service should also ensure it evaluates all its prevention activity.
The service is good in how it protects the public through fire regulation. It needs to get the right balance between inspections based on risk and those based on intelligence. However, the work of the multi-agency targeted enforcement team has the potential to be notable practice. The service supports local businesses in understanding fire regulations. It should also work more closely with them to reduce the number of false alarms.
The service is good at responding to fires and other emergencies. It has good equipment and training. It is flexible in how it responds to incidents and follows national guidance. However, it should use hot debriefs more often. Also, when it evaluates incident commanders, it should share the learning more widely.
The service is good at responding to national risks. It has good plans in place and staff understand what they need to do. Staff have done local and national multi-agency training exercises. The service works closely with other nearby services.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.
The service made ambitious plans in 2014 that it has not achieved. These were based on saving money by improving efficiency and making changes to the workforce. The financial plan is good and is based on sensible assumptions. But delays in bringing in the planned changes are costing the service money. This presents a risk. We found that staff do not fully understand the proposed changes to the role of watch managers. The service needs to address this situation.
Progress made in the service’s prevention work is likely to increase workloads in other areas. We found that specialist prevention officers already have a lot of work to do. This is a risk. The service should review the situation and consider how to deal with this problem. In particular, it may be able to introduce a better system for replacing faulty smoke alarms.
The service is good at working with partner organisations. Good arrangements are in in place for joint work with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, West Mercia Police and several local authorities. Some of these arrangements are innovative and the service is willing to try new things. The service should evaluate the benefits of these arrangements and make sure they are achieved. The benefits should include providing value for money. There are good arrangements in place to make sure the service can continue to function in all circumstances.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.
The service needs to improve how it promotes the right values and culture. It particularly needs to improve how senior leaders communicate with the workforce. It is making changes to make the workforce more adaptable and take on different work. Staff do not fully understand the reasons for these changes. The service should address this, so that it can improve trust and move forward with its plans.
The service is good at making sure staff wellbeing is a priority. Staff can access a range of support services. The service could consider the benefits of letting staff from all roles work more flexibly. Operational staff maintain their fitness levels. The new policy for responding to incidents focuses on both public and firefighter safety.
The service is good at getting the right people with the right skills and makes sure they are well trained. It is working on a charter for on-call firefighters to improve their experience and increase numbers. The service would also benefit from finding out about the wider skills and experience of on-call staff.
The service needs to improve how it ensures fairness and promotes diversity. We found that some staff do not understand the importance of diversity. The service should focus on developing this understanding, so that the workforce can build trust and confidence with its community.
The service should improve how it manages performance and develops leaders. Managers with specialist skills should continue to be included in leadership team meetings, to support decision making. All staff need to understand and use the appraisal system, to assist workforce development. The service should do more to make sure staff are confident in the promotion process. It is not as open as it could be.