Ambulance to review 999 call response

PEOPLE calling 999 for an ambulance in Essex could receive a new service as part of a major shake-up of the system.Those needing help will not be sent an ambulance automatically but could instead find they are booked an appointment with their doctor or given the number for NHS direct.

PEOPLE calling 999 for an ambulance in Essex could receive a new service as part of a major shake-up of the system.

Those needing help will not be sent an ambulance automatically but could instead find they are booked an appointment with their doctor or given the number for NHS direct.

The changes by Essex Ambulance Service are designed to cope with the increasing amount of calls which have almost doubled to almost 140,000 annually in the past 10 years.

The demand has grown beyond the trust's capability to deal with it and there are now more alternatives available to straightforward hospital admission.


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Only 20 % of calls presently are classed as genuine emergencies meaning valuable time can be wasted taking a patient to hospital when other options are more appropriate.

Callers will now be triaged - sorted by their urgency - so people are given the most appropriate level of care.

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The trust's chief executive, Anthony Marsh, yesterdayassured the public that the changes, which will not require additional funding, would not lead to closures of stations and more staff were being recruited.

He said: "Demand is growing beyond the capability to deal with it efficiently. Simply increasing resources for traditional services is not cost effective, is ultimately not sustainable and does not meet the needs of patients appropriately. The changes are not designed to save money, just use it more wisely.

"We will be able to offer more appropriate solutions and where possible give the patient choice. This means they are more likely to be seen in the comfort of their own home and not have to be taken to accident & emergency departments. It is all about working better for patients."

He added the aim for the service was for it to be better, easier to access, quicker and simpler to use.

There will now be a 12-week formal consultation before the issue goes before a health and overview scrutiny committee.

Under the new scheme, people would be dealt with in a number of ways including:

nAn emergency care practitioner could come out and give treatment in the home.

nA nurse from NHS Direct could provide reassurance and information over the phone.

nAn appointment could be booked with a GP the next day.

nA nurse used to dealing with the long-term health issues of an individual could be sent to the home.

nThe emergency care trust could put people in touch with the community psychiatric team or social services could become involved.

nPeople could be taken to a primary care centre rather than A & E.

nEssex Ambulance Service would instead be known as "emergency care trust".

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