Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) is the statutory emergency fire and rescue service for the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, England with their headquarters located in Swinton, Manchester.
GMFRS is the second largest fire and rescue service in the country covering an area of approximately 500 square miles and serving a growing population of around 2.8m residents, with many other people working or visiting the city region. Each year GMFRS answer over 50,000 emergency calls and attend around 14,000 emergencies.
GMFRS employ 2,009 personnel, of whom 1,446 are uniformed operational personnel and 563 are non-uniformed support staff.
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EFQM Excellence Model
GMFRS started using the model in 2011. This was prompted when, in 2010, the Government abolished the Comprehensive Area Assessment and other national reporting obligations, making local authorities responsible for their own performance and the improvement of outcomes in their local area.
Applying for Recognised for Excellence
In 2012 GMFRS embarked on the full R4E Recognised for Excellence programme.
Using North of England Excellence again, two assessors visited over four days in November. They used as the basis for their work, a self-assessment completed by the brigade some weeks in advance. Expanding on and triangulating GMFRS self-assessment, they interviewed around 70 people. Those people had been briefed about the process and asked to contribute honestly and comprehensively.
The visit was finished by a short feedback session giving GMFRS their initial findings. Within two weeks GMFRS received a report outlining it’s performance in relation to the Model and with this, GMFRS achieved a three star award for Excellence.
This process supported the organisation implementation of an improvement framework to:
• Create an improvement agenda to add momentum to its journey to excellence
• Provide external validation to calibrate its progress
• Help identify pockets of excellence within the Service
• Achieve external recognition for the progress made
• Provide a means of benchmarking performance against other Fire Services and those in other sectors
• Enable process benchmarking to understand how others have achieved excellence and to identify best practices elsewhere
The potential areas for improvement identified by the 2012 report covered 11 main areas such as KPI development; customer insights and continuous improvement.
These recommendations have been used by GMFRS to inform its priorities and activities going forward. For instance, communication was one of the areas identified. GMFRS have now reintroduced traditional face-to-face staff briefings, alongside newer forms of communication including a weekly internal news brief, a regular online Q&A with the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) and a weekly conference call between the CFO and borough managers. The Service has also devised a new competency framework and measures to embed leadership within the core behaviours of the 150 middle managers. This includes a bi-monthly conference where it can explore ways to achieve greater collaboration and shape the future direction of the service.
Applying the lessons learnt from the assessment, GMFRS approach to learning and development has since been hailed as “exemplary” and “outstanding” and scooped GMFRS a 2013 North of England Excellence Award. In October 2014, they were named overall winner of the Leadership Achievement Awards 2014, beating Virgin and First Trains Pennine Express.
The awards recognise our performance in key areas, our approach to leadership and sustained commitment to consulting, engaging and involving staff.
The success of GMFRS work, especially in the light of Greater Manchester devolution and public sector reform, will rely increasingly on its partnership with other organisations many of whom are not connected to the emergency services.
The model helps GMFRS look at themselves outside the scope of an emergency service and see itself as a potential partner might, both our strengths and our weaknesses. This insight is vital in forging new partnerships in both the public and private sectors. GMFRS successful appraisal has helped validate its reputation beyond the fire sector increasing further its credibility as a go-to partner.
The model is truly organisation-wide, allowing GMFRS to embed excellence at every level of its service delivery.