Rescue services reform aimed at improving services

According to the draft government proposal, rescue services would in future be organised by the wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki. These counties and the City of Helsinki would also be responsible for organising health and social services in their areas. The reform would ensure a close link between rescue services and health and social services in order to generate synergies between prehospital emergency medical services. For the public, the rescue services reform would offer improved and more equal services.

There are currently 22 rescue departments in Finland, which are managed by municipalities. Under the Rescue Act, the municipalities in each rescue service region agree on the organisation of rescue services. Rescue departments carry out practical rescue service duties in their respective regions. Besides rescue operations, rescue departments may also carry out first response and emergency medical care duties if this has been agreed with the health authorities.

Rescue services to be restructured as part of the health and social services reform

As a result of the reform, the responsibility for organising rescue services would be transferred from municipalities and joint municipal authorities to the wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki. The division into health and social services counties would mainly be based on the current division into regions. However, there would be four wellbeing services counties in Uusimaa, and the City of Helsinki would also carry out duties of the county in its area. 

The counties would be responsible for organising both health and social services and rescue services in their areas. Rescue departments could continue to provide prehospital emergency medical services for healthcare. Rescue services would, however, continue to be a separate sector working in parallel with the healthcare and social welfare sector. Currently, the rescue departments carry out approximately 500,000 urgent prehospital emergency medical care duties every year. 

Stronger central government guidance and direction

As a result of the reform, the role of central government guidance and direction in rescue services would be strengthened. Stronger national guidance and direction would improve the provision of more harmonised and equal rescue services throughout the country. In addition, the aim of the reform is to develop the rescue services to operate as a national system.

The Government would confirm the national strategic objectives for rescue services for a four-year term. The Government could also decide on the centralisation of some special tasks carried out by the rescue services so that these are handled by one or more wellbeing services counties.

The Ministry of the Interior would guide and direct the organisation of the rescue services of the wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki. The wellbeing services counties and the Ministry of the Interior would hold annual negotiations to provide guidance and direction concerning the organisation of rescue services. In addition, an advisory board for rescue services would be established under the Ministry of the Interior. The ministries responsible for the guidance and direction of the wellbeing services counties and the counties themselves would participate in the work of this board. 

The Regional State Administrative Agencies would oversee and assess rescue services and the level and standard of their services, which should correspond to national, regional and local needs and the risk of incidents and accidents.

Ministries to cooperate closely in the national preparation

The transfer of responsibility for health, social and rescue services to the wellbeing services counties will be carried out through close collaboration between the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Finance.

Provisions on the central government guidance and direction of the rescue services of the counties will be laid down in the forthcoming act on organising rescue services.

Preparatory stage

The Government published its policy on the reform of rescue services at a press conference held on 5 June 2020. The draft government proposal concerning the health and social services reform and the organisation of rescue services was sent out for comments on 15 June 2020. 

The deadline for submitting comments on the proposal was 25 September 2020.
The government proposal is due to be submitted to Parliament in December 2020.