When Hereford and Worcester FRS needed to replace their PPE stock earlier this year, they decided to continue with the Central PPE and Clothing Contract (CPCC). Jon Pryce, Head of Operations Support, explains why.
I’m responsible for a number of operational support roles within Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS). This includes supporting the procurement of good-quality and cost-efficient PPE, vehicles and equipment for our staff, and ensuring it is well maintained and fit for purpose.
Back in 2011, HWFRS signed up to the Central PPE and Clothing Contract (CPCC), which at the time was the first and only national procurement scheme for fire and rescue services across England and Wales. There were a number of potential benefits to national procurement including cost savings that could be achieved through a simplified procurement system and volume discounts. Above all, it seemed to make sense that fire services should work together when procuring essential PPE and reduce the vast variations in quality, type and costs that seem so prevalent across the UK, whilst still driving the suppliers to provide new and innovative, high-quality PPE.
Over the last seven years, our firefighters have been very happy with the choice of PPE. The fully managed system has served us well over a very difficult financial period where staffing levels have reduced in all areas of the Service. The reliance on a manufacturer to provide a fully managed cleaning, tracking and repair service at a fixed cost with minimal capacity demands on a reducing support workforce has proven to be a reassuring piece of stability through a very uncertain period, especially when dealing with something as important as front-line PPE.
Bristol Uniforms have their own in-house Managed Services Centres which handle everything for us. Kit is picked up by Bristol’s team of drivers and then washed, dried, inspected and, where necessary, repaired, before being sent back to us ready for action, usually within seven days. It’s reassuring to know that our kit is fully inspected and repaired by the original manufacturers, who literally know their garments inside out, and records are kept for the whole life of the garment.
Whilst some FRSs choose to handle the cleaning themselves, I personally believe there is real merit in exploring a fully managed service, which can reduce the often-hidden additional expenses of staff capacity and supporting equipment, not to mention contracting out the responsibility for the kit being fit for purpose after it has been cleaned. It gives us peace of mind to know that the company that made the PPE are handling our laundering and repairs.
The contract also provides us with a track-and-trace system, which we find helpful. We can access detailed information about each item of PPE via a barcode on the label, from the fabric rolls that were used to create it, to the firefighter it is assigned to, to the details of each and every wash and repair.
Some seven years on, our original PPE stock was coming to the end of its serviceable life, so at the beginning of last year we had to take the decision whether to continue with the contracted second term of the CPCC, or to opt out of the contract and source new kit elsewhere. We looked into the alternative options on the market and also considered the new Collaborative Framework, which at the time was in its conception with the contract yet to be awarded and was not readily available to procure off and so this was not a viable option for our requirement and timescales.
The CPCC had recently gone through a technical refresh. The structural coat and trouser are based on Bristol’s XFlex range, providing us with newer, updated technology and design.
Continuing into the second term of the existing CPCC has offered us a cost-effective solution, with no additional procurement or tendering costs. This time, on practically the same annual budget, we managed to purchase an additional orange lightweight RescueFlex tunic for each Firefighter, and lighting for their helmets, in addition to the two full sets of the usual full structural ensemble each. Admittedly, we have slightly fewer firefighters than before, but I was still pleasantly surprised at the amount of kit we managed to obtain for our budget.
I feel satisfied that we’ve managed to obtain high-quality modern PPE at a competitive price. HWFRS firefighters tell me it’s comfortable to wear and provides good range of movement. They are also happy that we were able to order exactly the same boots they had before, as they are used to them and know the sizing is right. The transition between PPE was dealt with very well. Bristol were excellent at handling the measuring and fitting for the crew, and the changeover went very smoothly.
I’m satisfied that we’ve managed to provide HWFRS with high-quality PPE that will continue to offer them excellent protection for each and every call-out, for many years to come.
For more information, go to www.bristoluniforms.com
The Central PPE & Clothing Contract (CPCC)
- The CPCC began life in 2008 as the Integrated Clothing Project (ICP).
- It was the first national procurement programme for firefighter clothing, initially offering 140 products spanning operational PPE and stationwear.
- In 2015, following a rigorous mid-term Technology Refresh, the PPE range was extended to include new structural, technical rescue and wildland garments, as well as compatible helmets, fire hoods, gloves and boots.
- The new garments are closely based on Bristol’s XFlex and RescueFlex range, incorporating the latest fabric and design technology, with ergonomic sports styling.
- The structural ensemble incorporates a Hainsworth Pbi TITAN1260 outer shell with a Crosstech® Fireblocker moisture barrier and an Eco-Dry Active thermal lining.
- Technical rescue garments incorporate a hi-visibility outer fabric with a Crosstech® SR moisture and bloodborne pathogen barrier.
- The CPCC offers three procurement options: Fully Managed Service, Purchased Managed Service or Purchase Only.