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Mapping the Health and Wellbeing Across the Firefighting Career and Assessing the Current Demands

Research theme: Health and Wellbeing

School: School of Social Sciences

Setting the Context

Until this project, there has been no full-scale review of wellbeing literature for the Fire and Rescue Sector. This project overcomes this gap through a three-stage process. The project will undertake literature reviews, provide a survey for all staff and engage strategic stakeholders in the health and wellbeing arena that are strategic, implementation leads, or are leaders of wellbeing in other sectors. It will create a series of outputs to inform future practice and ensure that a holistic approach for all staff and volunteers is created. These outputs will include a sector-wide strategy to ensure that a holistic view of health and wellbeing for all staff and volunteers is delivered by the key stakeholders in the sector.

This is needed because there have been multiple changes to the firefighting occupation over the last twenty years. Reports show how changes have had impacts on the career progression, tensions, opportunities and demands for the typical firefighting career development pathways, ranging from firefighter to chief fire officer (CFO) and for professional services staff but this insight has never been collated and compared with sector perspectives. The changing nature of society and the nature of fire and rescue service activity has had an impact on the nature of the roles, responsibilities, and pressures experienced in the careers within fire service employment. Currently, the health and wellbeing framework built around this sector is without a synthesised evidence-base and is not presently supported to be informed by the firefighting sector and research literature which is why this critical project is required.

This project will address this gap and ensure the sector builds a health and wellbeing response for all that is fit for the future.

Addressing the Challenge

To understand and develop a response to this interconnected world this project synthesised findings from across four work streams to establish the health and wellbeing of typical career trajectories over the course of time, plotting out the most typical pathways and pressure points within the UK Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). In addition to this, we are aware that since March 2020 there have been unpredicted demands on the UK FRS through the additional roles performed to support the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as mutual aid to health and public health, contributions to demands such as the vaccination programmes, as well as sustaining business as usual. This has established what the current demands are on the workforce of the UK FRS through literature review findings, analysis of survey data, and focus groups with key stakeholder groups. A strategy and key recommendations have been formed on the basis of these findings.

Making a Difference

The outcome of this research report and accompanying strategy document will create a unique insight into health and wellbeing across the UK fire and rescue sector. Having been commissioned and funded by the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Fire Fighters Charity and the Home Office it will feed directly into the implementation of a framework to create a holistic health and wellbeing offer for all staff and volunteers in the fire and rescue sector.

This project will lead the sector to create a fully inclusive and holistic approach to health and wellbeing supporting all staff and volunteers to manage their own health and understand how to both seek support and work with others in need. The unique nature of this project will ensure the sector has an evidenced base starting point that shapes all approaches to health and wellbeing.


The NTU team is led by Professor Rowena Hill and Rich Pickford with support from Ehab Abdelmalak, Samuel Afolayan, Molly Brittain, Lyba Nadeem, Cerys Stock and Rachel Stolz.


A summary video of the project is available here to introduce the findings and recommendations of this research project that will inform the next wellbeing strategy for the Fire and Rescue Sector.

This project has also produced a series of public and private reports from the research.

The central output is a comprehensive research report that gathered together the survey, literature and stakeholder engagement results of the project. The summary of the collective findings was collated into 31 recommendations and a series of 13 key priorities have also been developed to inform the next Fire and Rescue Sector Wellbeing strategy that this work was commissioned to inform.

The second public output has been a report to support the next Fire and Rescue strategy on wellbeing. This report has developed 13 key priorities that the sector should engage with to support a successful strategy that supports all staff and volunteer across the sector to live fulfilling lives whilst engaged with the sector and once they leave.

The project team has also produced a series of public and sector-facing outputs that contextualise the findings and recommendations to different audiences. The public reports focus on those working directly with staff on wellbeing and a report for services to undertake a gap analysis. Stakeholder-specific briefings have also been produced for the Home Office, His Majesties Inspectorates and the Local Government Associate and Employers. The project team have also developed service-specific confidential reports for those services that had a participant response rate above 10% based on the latest employment figures.

This report will be available via the UK Fire and Rescue Service website once it has been finalised and all public outputs are shared here in the interim. The National Fire Chiefs Council released these documents on 10 May 2023 to inform future actions across the sector.

To view the report please follow the links below.

Mapping the Health and Wellbeing Across the Firefighting Career and Assessing the Current Demands

Hill, Pickford, Abdelmalak, Afolayan, Brittan, Nadeem, Stock and Sholtz

March 2023

A  short executive summary document of the full report is also available.

Recommended Key Priorities for the Next Fire and Rescue Health and Wellbeing Strategy

Hill, Pickford, Abdelmalak, Afolayan, Brittan, Nadeem, Stock and Sholtz

March 2023

Briefing document for Communication Teams and Occupational Health Teams to brief staff and volunteers: How to support your health and wellbeing across your career

Hill, Pickford, Abdelmalak, Afolayan, Nadeem and Stock

March 2023

Report for Fire and Rescue Services to Undertake A Wellbeing Gap Analysis

Hill, Pickford, Abdelmalak, Afolayan, Nadeem and Stock

March 2023

Mapping the Health and Wellbeing Across the Firefighting Career and Assessing the Current Demands Survey Data Set

A cleaned and fully anonymised version of the data is available for further academic analysis on request. Anonymised data are available for research purposes. Further information about the data and conditions for access are available at the NTU Data Archive: