THE fire service in Cheshire has been commended for a scheme that sees it offer health advice as well as tips on fire safety.

Under the ‘Safe and Well’ scheme, firefighters visit residents’ homes to fit smoke alarms and offer general information on keeping properties safe and preventing trips and falls.

But in a break from their traditional roles, they also encourage people over 65 to engage with the national bowel cancer screening programme.

Crews have been given training from experts at Cancer Research UK on how best to allay fears about the NHS-led scheme and get people to engage.

They also give advice on quitting drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Between February 1 and November 3, staff carried out 32,059 visits resulting in 1,951 referrals to the NHS England Bowel Cancer Screening Hub for a kit to be sent out to the householder.

At least three have tested positive for bowel cancer and are now receiving treatment.

A total of 1,052 people have also been screened for atrial fibrillation – irregular heartbeat - included in Halton Safe and Well Visits, resulting in 32 being signposted for treatment.

The ‘Safe and Well’ visits have been deemed such a success that Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) has now won a national award from industry professionals.

It was named winner in the ‘Partnership of the Year’ category of the Excellence in Fire and Emergency Awards 2017, held in London earlier this month.

Hosted by chiefs at London Fire Brigade, the awards were an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the hard work and achievements of the fire and emergency services.

CFRS's head of prevention, Nick Evans, said: “We are delighted to have won such a prestigious award. This work has recognised the advantages to our communities of including health awareness in what were home safety assessments and are now known as Safe and Well Visits.

“It is particularly pleasing to have been recognised by industry professionals for what is an integral part of the day-to-day work of our firefighters and advocates who work hard within the community to ensure people stay safe and keep well.”

CFRS offers a free ‘Safe and Well Visit’ for people who are aged over 65 and for people who are referred by partner agencies because they are considered to be at a particular risk.