Demoralised 999 staff are having to work in reception because there is not enough staff due to the shake-up of the fire service. A report by HM Fire Service Inspectorate said uncertainty over the future of the existing fire control rooms across Scotland had affected the morale of the workforce.
And it warned there were also problems with control rooms running under their established staffing levels and staff being on long-term sickness absence. The new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was formed in April by the merger of Scotland’s previous eight fire brigades.
The inspectorate’s report highlighted problems for control room staff in handing the resulting rationalisation of procedures, and said: “In some control rooms, staff are currently required to take on additional roles such as reception duties; this is increasing their non-emergency work significantly. The practice of control room staff undertaking additional duties may impact on their core business of taking emergency calls.”
It has been announced the number of control rooms will be reduced from eight to three. Johnstone has been named as one of the three and a decision is expected at the end of the month on the other two to survive out of Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.
The inspectorate report says: “This has understandably created uncertainty amongst staff and we did find that morale is affected. The main issue raised by all the staff interviewed was the desire for clarity.”
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “It is essential they are allowed to operate to the maximum capacity and I’m very concerned they are being asked to carry out additional duties. They need to be able to give their full attention to the very important work they have.” Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi said there was an acceptance that change inevitably meant some disruption, but he remained hopeful Edinburgh would remain open.
He said: “It would be very unusual to have no fire control room in the national capital.”
A fire service spokeswoman said the inspectorate review was carried out in July and August.
Since then, the SFRS had set out its long-term plans to rationalise the property it inherited, including a reduction in control rooms from eight to three.
“The Chief Officer Alasdair Hay and the Chair of the Board Pat Watters have visited every Control room in Scotland to speak to those staff potentially affected by these planned changes.
“We recognise the on-going review does cause a level of anxiety and uncertainty.
“We will continue to engage with our control room staff and representative bodies on these issues.”