Emergency services: collaboration are you prepared for the upcoming changes?

Through the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP), emergency services organisations in England and Wales have embraced collaboration to improve joint working when responding to major incidents.

JESIP has largely focused on making the combined efforts of police, fire and ambulance services more effective when they need to work together and has seen some notable success from collaboration. However, the budget challenges arising from the Spending Review 2015 and from the impending Policing and Crime Bill will see joint working lifted to a new level with a focus on efficiency.

The Spending Review 2015 underlined that any investment and expenditure required to handle new threats needs to be funded from efficiencies   elsewhere: ‘overall police spending protected in real terms over the Spending Review period to enable the police to continue to adapt to emerging crime threats, and to train more firearms officers, while taking further steps to improve efficiency’.

The Policing and Crime Bill includes a provision which will ‘place a duty on police, fire and ambulance services to work together and enable police and crime commissioners to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services where a local case is made.’

This all points to a scale of change greater than that achieved through the 2010-2015 Spending Review period and a type of change that requires a degree of collaboration beyond what has successfully been delivered previously. This combination of scale and type of change is truly transformational.

Numerous reports by the National Audit Office, among others, highlight the pitfalls of transformation programmes. They often take longer, cost more and deliver less benefit than planned. In some cases, they inflict more harm than good. Such reports also provide wise lessons on how to ensure transformation programmes are a success, such as having a clear vision, clear roles and responsibilities, strong leadership, a focus on benefits and establishing robust governance and controls. There’s also guidance on collaboration too - with a British Standard for collaborative working (BS11000) and a board level guide from the Association for Project Management on the governance of co-owned projects and programmes.

Although there are lessons on past successes and failures, and guidance on how to set up transformational and co-owned programmes, the challenge facing organisations that are inherently operational is that refinements in the lessons and guidance relating to change are often missed. This can lead to knowing-doing gaps and subsequently reliance on inappropriate immediate solutions.

So are we destined for failure? Embarking on transformation blind to your own change capabilities, then probably. Doing so while also blind to your collaborator’s capability, almost certainly.

Understanding where you are and where you’d like to be is the easy bit. Making change that sticks is the hard bit. Our advice? Spend time on understanding the change and collaborative capability of your organisation and that of your collaborators. With that done, jointly invest time and effort in enhancing those together to tackle the implementation challenge that lies ahead.

If you would like to discuss emergency services collaboration please get in touch with Sarita Adams or your usual RSM contact.


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