Shake-up planned of 999 system

By Becky HallewellAN ambulance service has proposed a radical shake-up in the way it responds to 999 emergency calls.Essex Ambulance Service wants to completely overhaul its system for responding to 999 calls, which would see ambulances sent to genuine emergencies only.

By Becky Hallewell

AN ambulance service has proposed a radical shake-up in the way it responds to 999 emergency calls.

Essex Ambulance Service wants to completely overhaul its system for responding to 999 calls, which would see ambulances sent to genuine emergencies only.

Under the proposal, all 999 calls would be screened by service staff, who would then decide the best reponse.


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In some instances, call handlers will refer patients to NHS Direct, a primary care centre or their GP, while in other cases a nurse or primary care practitioner could come out to dispense treatment in the home.

The changes are designed to cope with an increasing number of calls to Essex Ambulance Service, which have doubled over the past decade to almost 140,000 a year.

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But as only 20% of calls are genuine emergencies needing an ambulance, managers want to save valuable time and resources by replacing ambulance journeys with more efficient alternatives.

Essex Ambulance Service is now seeking the views of the public on the proposal, with a series of public meetings scheduled for next month.

Its chief executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “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 and emergency departments.”

Mr Marsh said the changes would not mean the closure of any ambulance stations nor lead to a reduction in the number of ambulances.

“We will have 120 new staff on the road by Christmas, but demand is growing beyond the capability to deal with it efficiently. This year alone, demand has risen almost 11% on last year,” he added.

n The public meetings will be held at the Town Hall, Colchester, on November 2 at 2.30pm and 5.30pm and at the Essex Records Centre, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, on November 18 at 2.30pm and 6.30pm.

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