Scientists at Staffordshire University are pioneering a project that will equip Fire & Rescue services with skills to detect dementia and cut the number of fire deaths in older people.
"The Fire Services are a beacon of trust within our communities"
Professor Paul Kingston, director of the Centre for Ageing and Mental Health at Staffordshire University
Professors from the Centre for Ageing and Mental Health at the university are working with Staffordshire, Kent and West Midlands Fire and Rescue Services on the pilot scheme to train Fire Service home assessors to detect and flag up signs of early cognitive health decline in the elderly.
More than half of all people that die in fires in the UK are over 60 and scientists hope that using the Fire Service’s vital links with the community will help to reduce this figure significantly. The Fire Service currently carries out 200-300 home visits each week.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is already a pioneer in the care of elderly members of the community and approached Staffordshire University to assist them in finding ways to help reduce the number of fire deaths in the over 60’s.
The project will train fire officers by providing guideline to assess and detect cognitive decline and give them the tools to escalate cases if they are concerned about a person’s welfare.
If the project is successful, it could be rolled out nationwide, saving hundreds of lives every year.
Professor Paul Kingston, director of the Centre for Ageing and Mental Health at Staffordshire University, said: "The Fire Services are a beacon of trust within our communities and their preventative work enables them to spot early signs of dementia in people who may be averse to seeking the help of medical professionals. Staffordshire Fire Service alone makes 2-300 home visits every week and tapping into this preventative channel gives us a vital platform on which to help save more lives."
Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Peter Dartford said: "As a consequence of an ageing society we face a potential increase in the number of people suffering from mental illness and consequently a higher demand on the fire services across the country."
The scheme was officially launched at a conference to raise awareness of the role the Fire Services can play in both early detection and keeping dementia sufferers and their carers safe. The conference played host to Fire and Rescue services from across the UK and was praised by Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador, Angela Rippon OBE.