Almost 10 per cent of London Fire Brigade’s operational staff are currently absent due to Covid-19, though the force says its resilience has been “pretty good” throughout the pandemic.
The number was revealed at a meeting of the London Assembly’s fire, resilience and emergency planning committee following a question from chairman Andrew Dismore.
Tim Powell, London Fire Brigade’s Director for People, revealed that more than 300 members of staff, most of them operational, were currently absent either because they were ill with Covid or self-isolating.
Mr Powell said: “Our resilience has been pretty good all through the pandemic. We’ve seen much lower levels of sick absence compared with other partner organisations.”
Of the current absences, 106 are members of staff who are ill with Covid-19 and 201 are members of staff who were self-isolating.
This is a sharp fall from three weeks ago, however, when there were more than 200 employees ill with Covid and more than 600 self-isolating.
London Fire Brigade Commissioner Andy Roe insisted that staff absences have not had an impact on the force’s response times or level of service.
Mr Roe said: “At a London-wide level we’re not seeing any drop in attendance times. We continue to meet and improve on our attendance times over the course of the year. At a basic service level, we’re not seeing a drop in response.”
He added: “We continue to deliver across all high-risk areas of prevention and protection as well. Whilst, inevitably, the pandemic has had an impact, I’m confident that we continue to provide a level of service that London and Londoners need in the middle of this (pandemic).”
The Commissioner also revealed that there are currently between 185 and 200 London firefighters who are currently permanently seconded to the London Ambulance Service to assist with the increased demand for ambulance drivers. At the height of the pandemic, this rose to as many as 450.
These positions are backfilled by other firefighters working additional shifts, and the cost is covered by the London Ambulance service with money from the health budget.