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Call for review into whether ambulance crews should help fallers who are uninjured

PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 March 2018

An East of England Ambulance.

An East of England Ambulance.

Health bosses have called for a review into whether ambulances should be sent to people who suffer a minor fall in light of challenges faced by the region's NHS this winter.

Ambulance crews are often called to help older people who have suffered a fall. Picture: GETTYIMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTOAmbulance crews are often called to help older people who have suffered a fall. Picture: GETTYIMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

An investigation has taken place into 22 serious incidents that occurred within the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) over the festive period due to delays in attendance.

A whistleblower claimed a number of patients had died while waiting for an ambulance.

EEAST has drawn up an action plan of lessons that could be learnt at trust, regional and national level in order to prevent the same problems occurring again.

One recommendation is for a “national review of ambulance emergency services and whether it is appropriate for this service to be responding to patients who have fallen with no apparent harm, particularly when they are already in a care setting”.

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWNAndy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The report does not make clear what other protocols would be put in place to help patients in this situation.

In 2016, EEAST responded to 11,271 999 calls where patients were helped up from the floor following a fall but did not require hospital treatment.

Sheila Hammond, secretary of the Tendring Pensioners’ Action Group, has expressed concern about the proposals.

Ms Hammond said a fall could be “really traumatic” for an older person, and they often did not know how much they had hurt themselves.

She added: “If they are not going to put something else in place this is not acceptable because the emotional impact on the elderly person and the shock they find themselves in even if they have not hurt themselves can lead to problems.”

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said the festive period investigation at EEAST had been robust so far.

When asked about the falls review, he said: “Not being a clinician, I am not in a position to comment on changes to practice, based on clinical reasons. An example is the suggestion that a person who falls and is considered to be uninjured will not have an ambulance sent, is I suppose potentially open to challenge. For instance, how and by whom the degree of injury is assessed, and who/what the alternative source of help might be.”

EEAST declined to comment.

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