Fewer emergency workers keeping Portsmouth safe than 10 years ago

FEWER emergency workers are keeping the people of Portsmouth safe than a decade ago, figures suggest.

By Tom Cotterill
Saturday, 13th November 2021, 5:55 pm

While the country is still responding to the coronavirus pandemic, police, fire and ambulance staff unions are calling for more funding to protect frontline services.

Home Office and NHS Digital figures show the equivalent of 4,885 full-time emergency workers were employed by organisations covering Portsmouth this year – 11 per cent fewer than in 2011.

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Paramedics attending to a casualty from an explosion in Nelson Avenue. Picture: Mike Cooter (221021)

Among them were the 2,693 frontline police officers in Hampshire Constabulary's ranks as of March 31, according to the Home Office data.

That was 14 per cent fewer than at the same point in 2011, when there were 3,137 full-time equivalent officers, though figures prior to 2015 are estimates.

Across England, the number of officers has dropped by five per cent in the last decade – while recorded crime was rising year-on-year in the years before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Different Home Office figures show that across Hampshire, the number of crimes recorded by police increased by 21 per cent, from 133,500 in 2010-11, to 161,404 in 2019-20.

Emergency services pictured in Nelson Avenue Picture: Mike Cooter (221021)

The figure fell to 139,844 in 2020-21, when crime levels nationally were significantly impacted by coronavirus lockdowns.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents officers, said the government's promise of 20,000 new police officers by the end of 2023 does not go far enough.

A spokesman said: ‘An increase in the number of police officers is desperately needed, particularly given that the population in England and Wales has grown by four million in the last decade.’

Fire Officers arrive with trolley jacks to remove cars from affected area. Picture: Mike Cooter (221021)

Meanwhile, the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service had the equivalent of 1,075 full-time firefighters responding to emergencies as of the end of March – 289 fewer than in 2011.

Around 9,500 firefighters were lost across England over the same period – a 23 per cent drop – with every fire and rescue service experiencing reductions.

While the number of incidents attended overall has steadily been declining nationally, the response time to fires has increased.

The Fire Brigades Union, which represents firefighters, said anyone working in the public sector frontline would agree that ‘austerity is not over’.

Smoke from a home Nelson Avenue filled the street. Picture: Mike Cooter (221021)

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said the sector had been calling for new funding for years.

He added: ‘For fire and rescue, every pound cut from our budget means a greater likelihood of smaller crew numbers, fire stations shutting, and the loss of resources such as fire engines.

‘In turn this all means longer response times to incidents, and a greater risk to lives, property, heritage and the environment.’

It was a different story for the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, which saw its ambulance staff numbers increase 11 per cent from 1,004 in September 2011, to 1,117 as of July this year.

But the NHS Digital figures show the number of ambulance staff operating in trusts across England dropped by three per cent in 10 years.

Unison, which represents ambulance workers, said fewer staff means lengthy waits for ambulances.

Colm Porter, the union's national ambulance officer, said: ‘Staff end up working across wider areas, their shifts persistently overrun, stress increases and burnout is common.

‘Queuing ambulances outside hospitals and long patient delays have become the norm.’

The government said it had ‘consistently’ given emergency services the resources they need to keep people safe.

A spokesman added: ‘We have recruited more than half of the promised 20,000 additional police officers, invested £2.3bn this year to support the work of firefighters and NHS England have given ambulance trusts an extra £55m to boost staff numbers ahead of winter.’

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