GROUNDBREAKING work by Cheshire firefighters has resulted in nearly 4,000 people addressing health concerns.

Launched in February 2017, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) launched the Safe and Well Visits initiative, in collaboration with the NHS and borough councils' directors of public health.

The scheme set out to improve the health of potentially vulnerable residents, by offering free visits to those over 65 and anyone referred to the service by other partners.

Going beyond offering traditional fire safety advice, firefighters have been given training to offer help with trips, slips and fall prevention as well as winter warmth.

They can also check for heart issues, offer support to those with drink or drug addictions, and have encouraged people to take up free cancer screenings.

Of the latter, there were 2,606 referrals to the NHS England bowel cancer screening hub for a free kit to be sent out to householders and at least three people are now receiving treatment after testing positive for bowel cancer.

Nick Evans, head of prevention at CFRS, said: “The latest figures show that without a Safe and Well Visit almost 4,000 people in Cheshire may have suffered adversely through not knowing where to turn or not realising they may have something needing medical attention.

“Cheshire firefighters and advocates have carried out an impressively large number of Safe and Well Visits since the pioneering programme was launched in February 2017 – and the figures show that it has been an overwhelming success.

“It helps to save lives, reduce the number of emergency visits to hospital and is an excellent example of the public sector collaborating and partnering up, and using resources more effectively and efficiently for the people we serve in Cheshire.”

The scheme developed off the back of the successful Home Safety Assessment programme, and acted on calls from NHS chief executive Simon Stevens Public Health England head Duncan Selbie for firefighters to address wider support issues.

Mr Evans said that there had been positive feedback from the public, with compliments also coming from GPs, NHS England North, and Public Health England.

Dr Matt Kearney, a GP and the national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention at NHS England, said: “Safe and Well Visits are a great example of how the NHS is joining up with other services to improve care.

“Firefighters are out on the frontline talking to vulnerable people. It is only right we make the most of these opportunities and ask what else can we do for people while we are there."

People over the age of 65 can book a Safe and Well Visit at where Cheshire residents can carry out their own home safety check through a questionnaire.

This can also be done by downloading the free Risk Rater app.