There are opportunities for physiotherapists to work with fire services to improve the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people, a King’s Fund event heard.
Disabled people are at greater risk from fire
David Marsden, an occupational therapist (OT) and quality improvement specialist at Stockport NHS Trust, told the think tank’s allied health professionals event on 6 September that all health professionals have a role in fire safety.
He said that over the past 20 years the number of deaths from fire had been very much reduced, but that people with disabilities are at greater risk from fire than the general population.
Speaking to Frontline Mr Marsden said: ‘With regard to physiotherapy, I think there are a number of specialist roles, such as falls prevention.
'And, more generally, to ensure safety in activities that involve fire risk, such as cooking, heating, smoking and using candles. Also ensuring safe transfers and stair use in relation to escape plans.’
He was previously working with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust when an OT was recruited to work with the region’s fire and rescue service. The role of the OT was to understand how fires were caused, the risks involved and to work with the fire service to improve safety.
‘The data produced showed that 37 per cent of fatalities were known to my trust,’ he said.
The University of Salford evaluated the successful two-year project and recommended that it was rolled out across Greater Manchester and beyond. Mr Marsden was tasked with implementing this.
‘We jumped into an occupational health partnership with the fire service, but we have not explored what other allied health professionals can do,’ he said.
‘I would encourage people to come forward. The door is open. The fire service want to talk to people.’
Mr Marsden recommended that physiotherapists interesting in finding out more about the potential for joint working with fire services should visit www.gmmh.nhs.uk/fire-safety-advice.
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