Follow-up statement on coverage of Grenfell firefighters
Following the statement we issued on Friday 13 January, the NHS in NW London and the local authority want to share with the North Kensington Community the next steps that we plan to take.
Since Friday’s coverage about the health of firefighters in the national media, we have heard clearly from survivors, bereaved family member and local residents that many people are still worried and anxious about their health.
To provide more information to those concerned we are working with local and national partners to:
- review the approach we have taken to monitoring the health of bereaved, survivors and local people, making changes where potential improvements are identified;
- ensure that the authors are contacted about this to understand the research in more detail;
- agree how we will work together to ensure we are taking the right approach to supporting the health of bereaved, survivors and local people, providing reassurance wherever we can.
What we know about the study referenced in the media
In terms of the specific study referenced in the article last week, the study findings reported are not related to firefighters who attended the Grenfell Tower Fire. They are based on an analysis of mortality records among a sample of male Scottish firefighters.
Some of the wider findings reported in the University of Central Lancashire’s press release (available here) are from a survey of all UK firefighters, which firefighters could choose to complete (or not).
The study referenced in the media is about occupational (work-related) risks faced by firefighters every day, and in general the higher occurrence of certain health conditions seen in this profession. None of the findings are specific to firefighters who attended the Grenfell Tower fire and the research is not based on a programme of enhanced health checks or monitoring of firefighters (in fact, this is what is being called for by the authors of the study).
We have recently been made aware that there is an entirely separate study planned on the Grenfell firefighter cohort, which involves monitoring their health over the long term in a similar way that we are doing for survivors, bereaved family members and local residents (see below). As yet, we are not aware of any published findings from this research but we will contact the researchers about this work to understand the approach in more detail.
What we are currently doing to monitor the health of survivors, the bereaved and local population
The current programme was instigated following the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Notice in September 2018 with support and guidance from national public health experts; the programme aims to provide early detection, identification and appropriate onward referral for any emerging conditions, alongside a wider population health monitoring programme reviewing the available health data to identify any trends. This goes beyond the survey or sample-based approaches reported in last week’s article.
The current programme includes:
- GP led enhanced health checks for the wider community – referral for spirometry (test for lung conditions) as required
- Community enhanced health checks in non-medical locations for the wider community – referral to spirometry as required
- Annual adult respiratory health checks for survivors – including lung function tests
- Annual health checks for children and young people who are survivors and bereaved
Alongside this, there is a comprehensive population health monitoring programme in place to analyse the incidence of disease among survivors, bereaved family members and residents of North Kensington. The programme tracks overall activity across all disease groups and considers in detail specific conditions such as respiratory conditions, cancers and mental health conditions. This data is reviewed to identify any trends and variations and there is a robust process of clinical review to understand any observed changes.
To date, we have not identified any evidence of increases in cancers, including the specific type of cancers referenced in the article last week. We will continue this monitoring.
If you are a survivor or local resident and you are worried or want to know more about the checks and how to access them, please contact our enhanced health check service (see below)
To ensure we are looking at all evidence and research available to us about health we are speaking to national expert bodies to:
- ·understand what, if any, implications the research may have, given that it doesn’t relate specifically to the Grenfell tragedy
- advise us on any further steps that we should take to check the health of the population and monitor health conditions, including any learning from other places
We want to ensure that survivors, bereaved family members and local people are involved so that they can have confidence that the right arrangements are in place and they can access the checks and support they need.
We will issue a further statement when we have more information on what people can expect next. In the meantime, if you have a question that you would like to ask about this work, please email email@example.com.
What to do if you’re worried
If you are a survivor from the Tower or a bereaved relative and you are worried about your health, you should contact the NHS Dedicated Service or your GP. More information on the NHS dedicated service is available here.
If you are a local resident or were present on the night of the fire and are worried, you should contact your GP or refer yourself to the Community Enhanced Health Check Service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, date of birth and contact number. The service will make contact to arrange an appointment.