Frequently asked questions about rescue services reform
The responsibility for organising rescue services would be transferred from the municipalities to the wellbeing services counties.
The close links between rescue services and prehospital emergency medical services and the resulting benefits would be secured in the reform. In future, rescue services would be organised by the same wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki which would also organise emergency medical services in healthcare and social welfare. Rescue services would, however, continue to be a separate sector working in parallel with the healthcare and social welfare sector.
In addition, the purpose of the reform is to 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 would be more consistent, and common information systems would be available throughout the country.
A further objective is that rescue departments could, in addition to their rescue service duties, continue to provide prehospital emergency medical services and first response services. Since the wellbeing services counties would 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 drafting of legislation was launched in autumn 2019. The Government’s draft legislation on the reform of health, social and rescue services was sent out for comments on 15 June 2020. The deadline for comments was 25 September 2020. After the consultation round, the necessary amendments were made to the draft legislation.
The government proposal was submitted to Parliament on 8 December 2020.
The acts are scheduled to enter into force in 2021, after which provisional preparatory bodies for the wellbeing services counties will be set up and county elections will be held. The counties will take up the responsibilities from 2023.
The aim of the health and social services reform is to establish 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 would mainly be based on the current division into regions.
In Uusimaa, the responsibility for organising these services would rest with the four wellbeing services counties to be established and the City of Helsinki.
The act implementing the reform will lay down provisions on the wellbeing services counties as the reform enters into force. 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
The responsibility for organising rescue services would 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.
Some of the rescue service duties assigned to the wellbeing services counties could be centralised in only one or a few counties. These tasks would 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.
After the reform, the municipalities would no longer be responsible for organising rescue services in their areas, with the exception of the City of Helsinki.
However, the rescue services reform would not change the responsibilities of other authorities nor the chain of command between the authorities in the rescue services. Municipal authorities would 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.
Under the reform, the employer of the personnel of rescue departments would change. The personnel of the existing rescue departments would be transferred to the employment of the wellbeing services counties on current terms and conditions.
The personnel employed by the Rescue Department of the City of Helsinki would 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 would be transferred to the wellbeing services counties.
The properties owned by municipalities and contract fire brigades would remain in their ownership. The current fire station leases would be transferred to the wellbeing services counties on current terms and conditions for a three-year transition period. The wellbeing counties would 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 would be transferred on current terms and conditions from municipalities to the wellbeing services counties.
After the reform, the wellbeing services counties would be responsible for organising prehospital emergency medical services. As the rescue services would in future be organised by the same wellbeing services county, the rescue department could also provide emergency medical services.
Emergency medical services would continue to be provided as a locally accessible service and the organisation of these services would 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 would also enable to prepare for various kinds of incidents and emergencies beyond county boundaries.
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 would arrive at the scene as quickly as before.
The rescue services reform will be carried out so that public services can be kept at a good level far into the future. This is an internal reform of the rescue services, which is not particularly visible to the general public.
Additionally, the reform is aimed at harmonising the content of services, in which case the client's place of residence would have as little impact as possible on the services, instructions and advice that he or she receives from the rescue department.
In line with the Government Programme, the funding of the wellbeing services counties would be based on state funding, and the related provisions would be 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 would be universal and it would be divided among the counties based on imputed factors. The funding for rescue services would depend on the number of inhabitants, population density and risk factors.
There would be a seven-year transition period in the funding for rescue services during which the difference between imputed and actual costs would be adjusted. The wellbeing services counties would also be eligible for additional funding to secure rescue services if the level of funding allocated to them jeopardised 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 would receive the funding necessary for organising the services of rescue departments from the State. The services provided by rescue departments are public services, so both now and in future, taxpayers will pay for the services.
The right of wellbeing services counties to levy taxes will be examined in a parliamentary process as the preparation of the reform of health, social and rescue services progresses.
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 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 would participate in the work of this board. Guidance and direction would be interactive and strategic in nature. Instead of providing detailed guidance on service provision, it would focus on the counties’ responsibility to organise services.
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.
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 would be provided only for matters relating to operational activities, not for the administration of the wellbeing services county.
The model would 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.