New ambulance 999 screening system
AMBULANCE chiefs in Essex are looking into screening 999 calls so that an ambulance is only sent out to a real emergency.Essex Ambulance Service is working on a new strategy to ensure a more appropriate response to 999 calls than sending an ambulance with paramedics on board.
AMBULANCE chiefs in Essex are looking into screening 999 calls so that an ambulance is only sent out to a real emergency.
Essex Ambulance Service is working on a new strategy to ensure a more appropriate response to 999 calls than sending an ambulance with paramedics on board.
If the proposals are agreed, all calls would be screened and responded to either by sending an emergency ambulance, a locally-based paramedic, a non-emergency ambulance, or referring the patient to NHS Direct or their GP.
At this stage it has not been decided whether medical staff, such as nurses, would be on hand in the control room to help with screening decisions.
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The service's chairman, Richard Bourne, said: “We'd like to deploy our resources in a way which matches the requirement.”
He added: “There aren't any inappropriate 999 calls, only inappropriate responses. Every 999 caller thinks they have got a real problem.
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“We would not say someone who dialled 999 did so inappropriately. We want to focus on appropriate responses.”
The proposed strategy was welcomed by Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns, who is Shadow Health Minister: “It seems a quite sensible suggestion providing it works properly.”
“Some people do make 999 calls when it isn't necessary. If they're going to have a screening process that actually works so that they can screen out people who do not warrant an ambulance with paramedics in it and that people can be looked after in a more appropriate way, it would free up ambulances for genuine 999 calls.”
He added: “But so that mistakes aren't made they really will have to have a strict protocol to make sure that they are sending the appropriate form of help for the medical condition or the caller or those calling on their behalf.”
Responding to this point, Mr Bourne said: “We wouldn't put in place anything that wasn't clinically sound.”
The strategy has been agreed by the service's board.
Over the coming months consultations about the plans will take place with the county's primary care trusts and ambulance staff. It is hoped the proposals will be finalised by April.