Frequently asked questions about rescue services reform
The responsibility for organising rescue services will be transferred from the municipalities to the wellbeing services counties from the beginning of 2023.
The close links between rescue services and prehospital emergency medical services and the resulting benefits will be secured in the reform. Rescue services will be organised by the same wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki which will also organise emergency medical services in healthcare and social welfare. Rescue services will, however, continue to be a separate sector working in parallel with the healthcare and social welfare sector.
In addition, the reform will strengthen the national guidance and direction of rescue services in such a way that, under the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior, the rescue services can be developed cost-effectively and cost-efficiently on nationally uniform grounds.
The operating environment of the rescue services is constantly changing. The rescue services reform aims to respond to changes in the threat model, from everyday incidents and accidents to large-scale crises.
The aim is to improve the ways of providing guidance to rescue services so that, in future, the operations and services of rescue services will be more consistent, and common information systems will be available throughout the country.
A further objective is that rescue departments can, in addition to their rescue service duties, continue to provide prehospital emergency medical services and first response services. Since the wellbeing services counties will be responsible for emergency medical services in future, the rescue services must also be transferred to the wellbeing services counties.
Close cooperation between the rescue services and emergency medical services ensures synergies between the health and social services and rescue services. The use of the rescue departments for the provision of emergency medical services, and for first response tasks and rescue duties means that the same support functions can be used, as can some of the same personnel, and the same operating models and joint exercises. At the same time, it allows for joint contingency planning and emergency and disaster preparedness. In this way, resources can also be directed efficiently during incidents and major accidents and in emergency conditions.
The rescue services reform was carried out so that public services can be kept at a good level far into the future. Additionally, the reform is aimed at harmonising the content of services, in which case the client's place of residence will have as little impact as possible on the services, instructions and advice that he or she receives from the rescue department.
The aim is to keep people's access to assistance in the event of incidents and accidents at least at the current level: this means that help will arrive at the scene as quickly as before. The reform will also secure the synergies between rescue services and health and social services, which will ensure that rescue departments can continue to provide prehospital emergency medical services and first response services in future too.
On 23 June 2021, Parliament adopted the key acts relevant for the establishment and operation of the new administrative level, i.e. wellbeing services counties. These include the Act on Wellbeing Services Counties; the Act on Organising Healthcare and Social Welfare Services; the Act on Organising Rescue Services; the Act on Organising Healthcare, Social Welfare and Rescue Services in the Region of Uusimaa; the Act Implementing the Reform of Health, Social and Rescue Services and Related Legislation; the Act on the Funding of Wellbeing Services Counties; and the proposals for amending legislation on central government transfers to local government, tax legislation, legislation on the personnel of wellbeing services counties and certain acts on general administration. The Acts will enter into force on 1 July 2021.
Many other acts will also be specified as the reform progresses.
The drafting of legislation was launched in autumn 2019. The Government’s draft legislation on the reform of health, social and rescue services was circulated for comments between 15 June and 25 September 2020.
After the consultation round, the necessary amendments were made to the draft legislation. The Government submitted its proposal to Parliament on 8 December 2020.
The Acts entered into force on 1 July 2021, and interim preparatory bodies for the wellbeing services counties have been set up to continue preparations. The first county elections will be held in early 2022. The responsibility for organising healthcare, social welfare and rescue services will be transferred to the wellbeing services counties from the beginning of 2023.
Wellbeing services counties
From the beginning of 2023, the municipalities will no longer be responsible for organising rescue services in their areas, with the exception of the City of Helsinki.
The rescue services reform will not change the responsibilities of other authorities nor the chain of command between the authorities in the rescue services. Municipal authorities will continue to participate in rescue operations, provide executive assistance, cooperate in incident and accident prevention and participate in civil defence planning as laid down in the Rescue Act.
Some of the rescue service duties assigned to the wellbeing services counties can be centralised in only one or a few counties. These tasks include rescue operations in the event of accidents at sea, the special preparedness required for chemical and radiological incidents, regional and national situation centre operations, prevention of oil spills on the coast and in the archipelago, and the special preparedness required for the provision or reception of international assistance in the field of rescue services.
The Act on Wellbeing Services Counties lays down provisions on the organisation of the administration and finances of the wellbeing services counties. An elected county council will exercise the highest decision-making power in each wellbeing services county. One of its key tasks will be to decide on the strategy for the wellbeing services county, the organisation of services and the budget.
Residents of the wellbeing services county will have the right to vote in county elections where county councillors are elected. The minimum number of councillors is determined by the number of residents in the area. The first county elections will be held in early 2022. In future, the elections will coincide with the municipal elections.
Other statutory bodies in the wellbeing services county include the county executive, the audit committee and the national language board in bilingual counties. In addition, there will be a Saami language board in the wellbeing services county of Lapland.
The City of Helsinki will be responsible for organising the services, and it will not be part of the wellbeing services counties. However, the same provisions will apply to health, social and rescue services as in the wellbeing services counties, and the City of Helsinki will receive funding for tasks based on the same criteria as the wellbeing services counties.
Since Helsinki is not a wellbeing services county, there will be no county elections. The Helsinki City Council will exercise the highest decision-making power with regard to health, social and rescue services. However, provisions on certain exceptions to the performance of the tasks are laid down by an act. It must, for example, separate the costs of healthcare, social welfare and rescue services from other municipal activities in its accounting.
The responsibility for organising rescue services will lie with the four wellbeing services counties of Uusimaa and the City of Helsinki. The four wellbeing services counties in Uusimaa are Central Uusimaa, West Uusimaa, East Uusimaa, and Vantaa and Kerava.
The reform established 21 wellbeing services counties which will be responsible for organising rescue services and primary and specialised health and social services. The division into wellbeing services counties is mainly based on the current division into regions.
In Uusimaa, the responsibility for organising these services will rest with four wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki.
The Act Implementing the Reform of Health, Social and Rescue Services and Related Legislation lays down provisions on the wellbeing services counties. The counties are:
Wellbeing services county of Southwest Finland
Wellbeing services county of Satakunta
Wellbeing services county of Kanta-Häme
Wellbeing services county of Pirkanmaa
Wellbeing services county of Päijät-Häme
Wellbeing services county of Kymenlaakso
Wellbeing services county of South Karelia
Wellbeing services county of South Savo
Wellbeing services county of North Savo
Wellbeing services county of North Karelia
Wellbeing services county of Central Finland
Wellbeing services county of South Ostrobothnia
Wellbeing services county of Ostrobothnia
Wellbeing services county of Central Ostrobothnia
Wellbeing services county of North Ostrobothnia
Wellbeing services county of Kainuu
Wellbeing services county of Lapland
Wellbeing services county of East Uusimaa
Wellbeing services county of Central Uusimaa
Wellbeing services county of West Uusimaa
Wellbeing services county of Vantaa and Kerava
Personnel, equipment, facilities and contract fire brigades
As a result of the reform, the employer of the personnel of rescue departments will change. The personnel of the existing rescue departments will be transferred to the employment of the wellbeing services counties on current terms and conditions at the start of 2023.
The personnel employed by the Rescue Department of the City of Helsinki will not change employers, as the City of Helsinki will carry out the duties of the wellbeing services counties.
The rescue services’ equipment of municipalities and joint municipal authorities that are responsible for regional rescue services will be transferred to the wellbeing services counties at the start of 2023.
The properties owned by municipalities and contract fire brigades will remain in their ownership. The current fire station leases will be transferred to the wellbeing services counties on current terms and conditions for a three-year transition period. The wellbeing services counties will have the right to extend the validity of the lease by one year.
The purpose of the reform is to strengthen the role of contract fire brigades as partners of rescue departments while also recognising their current and future challenges and special characteristics.
As a result of the reform, the contract fire brigades' fire service contracts will be transferred on current terms and conditions from municipalities to the wellbeing services counties at the beginning of 2023.
After the reform, the wellbeing services counties will be responsible for organising prehospital emergency medical services. As the rescue services will in future be organised by the same wellbeing services county, the rescue department can also provide emergency medical services.
Emergency medical services will continue to be provided as a locally accessible service and the organisation of these services will take into account each county’s conditions, the division of responsibilities between the hospitals providing 24-hour services, and the different service needs of the residents. The aim is to maintain a good level of emergency medical services even as the population ages and people have an increasing need for services. This calls for a more effective use of the resources of emergency medical services and rescue services.
The new operating model will also enable better preparedness for various kinds of incidents beyond county boundaries.
Funding of wellbeing services counties and rescue services
The funding of the wellbeing services counties will be based on central government financing, and the related provisions are laid down in the Act on the Funding of Wellbeing Services Counties. Since the counties will be self-governing, they will decide on the allocation of funding.
The funding for the wellbeing services counties will be universal and it will be divided among the counties based on imputed factors. The funding for rescue services will depend on the number of inhabitants, population density and risk factors. Differences in the service needs of counties and the conditions in which they are organised will be taken into account in the factors determining central government financing.
There will be a seven-year transition period in the funding for rescue services during which the difference between imputed and actual costs will be adjusted. The wellbeing services counties will also be eligible for additional funding to secure rescue services if the level of funding allocated to them jeopardises the organisation of services.
When the reform comes into force, the wellbeing services counties will not have the right to levy taxes, but the right of counties to levy taxes will be examined at a later stage.
The wellbeing services counties will receive the funding necessary for organising the services of rescue departments from the State. The services provided by rescue departments are public services, so taxpayers pay for the services both now and in future.
When the reform comes into force, the wellbeing services counties will not have the right to levy taxes, but the right of counties to levy taxes will be examined at a later stage.
The funding for wellbeing services counties is based on the municipalities’ costs of organising the transferable tasks of healthcare and social welfare and rescue services. In the first phase, the counties will not have the right to levy taxes.
A comprehensive imputed finance model will be introduced in 2023 when the reform enters into force, which means that changes in needs-based factors will be fully taken into account. The estimated increase in service needs will be fully taken into account in the first two years. However, during the transition period, the difference between the transferable costs and the computation for the funding for the counties will be adjusted by means of transitional equalisation that takes into account the difference between the imputed costs and the actual costs of the municipalities in the wellbeing services county.
The transitional equalisation will be paid in a progressively diminishing amount from 2023 to 2029, when the difference in the level of funding will have been adjusted by each wellbeing services county to +/- EUR 150 per capita. Thereafter, any remaining difference in funding will be paid as a continuous transitional equalisation that would be in use for the time being.
In order for wellbeing services counties to start operating, part of the funding for January 2023 will be paid in advance as early as December 2022. Possible temporary and permanent transition costs for wellbeing services counties and their consideration in the financing base will be examined in connection with further preparation.
Guidance and direction of rescue services
The Government will confirm the national strategic objectives for rescue services for a four-year term. The Government can 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 will guide and direct the organisation of the rescue services of the wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki. The counties and the Ministry of the Interior will hold annual negotiations to provide guidance and direction concerning the organisation of rescue services. In addition, an advisory board for rescue services will 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 will participate in the work of this board.
Guidance and direction will be interactive and strategic in nature. Instead of providing detailed guidance on service provision, it will focus on the counties’ responsibility to organise services.
The Regional State Administrative Agencies will oversee and assess rescue services and the level and standard of their services, which must correspond to national, regional and local needs and the risk of incidents and accidents.
The rescue services aim to safeguard people's fundamental rights to the services throughout the country on uniform grounds. This means that central government guidance is required for rescue services because of this fundamental aspect, and the guidance must be stronger than in other sectors.
In addition to locally accessible services, rescue services are also a national organisation that may have to operate in a wider area than that of one rescue department. This requires uniform operational arrangements as well as national guidance and direction. At national level, guidance will be provided only for matters relating to operational activities, not for the administration of the wellbeing services county.
The model will be the same as in the guidance and direction of health and social services in which the Government and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health also play a strong role.
Interim preparatory body for the wellbeing services county and its tasks
In order to launch the activities of the wellbeing services county, an interim administration is required to take the necessary measures under the Act Implementing the Reform of Health, Social and Rescue Services and Related Legislation after the entry into force of the legislation on 1 July 2021, before the county council's term of office begins in spring 2022.
The necessary measures include launching the activities and administration of the wellbeing services county. For example, proposals on the administrative regulations of the wellbeing services county, the management system and production and cooperation structures will be prepared.
An interim preparatory body will prepare decisions concerning the administration of the new organisation. Decisions may not be made solely by an individual official. Nor can decisions be based on voluntary cooperation between the authorities of a wellbeing services county.
An interim preparatory body will be responsible for organising and directing the preparatory work. The detailed tasks of an interim preparatory body are listed in section 10 of the Act Implementing the Reform of Health, Social and Rescue Services and Related Legislation.
It is not the task of a preparatory body to prepare matters that require political guidelines.
An interim preparatory body will be responsible for preparing the launch of the activities and administration of the wellbeing services county until the county council has been elected and until the county executive appointed by the county council has started its activities.
The authorities deciding on the appointment of an interim preparatory body may, if they so wish, appoint a monitoring group to monitor the implementation of the reform.
The monitoring group would consist of representatives of political parties and groups represented in the wellbeing services county.
The monitoring group will not participate in the preparation of the tasks of the interim preparatory body or decision-making.