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Data sharing is a smart move for blue light services

A research report published by Reform claims that the emergency services can respond more swiftly and accurately to calls if they had access to more information on callers and situations. 


‘The frontline online. Smarter blue light services’, says it is no surprise that data sharing between public bodies is under-used. However, whilst there is a current drive towards digitising processes, there is an opportunity to move to a smarter and more joined-up approach that removes the information silos and does not simply replicate current administrative processes in a digital format. The police, ambulance and fire services would all benefit from such a smarter approach, resulting in more efficient, more collaborative and more responsive emergency services.


The report draws on interviews with senior public-sector leaders and private-sector providers of cutting-edge technology for blue light services. It is sponsored by Motorola Solutions. 


Reform finds that emergency services are swimming in data from the 10 million incidents they respond to each year. Derek Cartwright, Chief Executive of the North West Ambulance Service says that 95% of the service’s calls are of an urgent nature, typically elderly people, with multiple long-term conditions. He argues that sending the appropriate available information to the ambulance crews before they arrive at a scene would further improve the position from which crews can intervene and plan a care pathway for their patients.


Smart technology, such as electronic health records, videos from drones and augmented reality glasses, can empower first respondents to assess the situation en route to incidents and most effectively decide on courses of action. Mobile technology can then identify individuals through biometric data and provide links to follow-up services. 


The authors praise the Government’s ambition to move to a 4G network to allow the sharing of multimedia data. The report argues that government should continue to be radical and identify opportunities to upgrade to 5G in the future to further improve the speed and quantity of data-sharing. It is crucial, however, that emergency services have access to critical information at all times. 


Reform finds that better collaboration between blue light services is essential to share data and exploit new technology. Basic data recording issues and nervousness about sharing data across services should be overcome through using access keys that only allow emergency services to see authorised data. The authors point to the opportunity of radical technology, such as blockchain, to provide high security over these data.