Trust aims to improve 999 system

A NEW system specifically designed to bring better care to patients with less serious conditions has been introduced to Essex Ambulance Service to combat the increasing number of calls it receives.

By Sharon Asplin

A NEW system specifically designed to bring better care to patients with less serious conditions has been introduced to Essex Ambulance Service to combat the increasing number of calls it receives.

When a call is made to the emergency operations centre, it is classified as A, B or C, depending on the nature of the situation reported. Category C calls, which are the least serious, will now be directed to a clinical support desk, where specially trained emergency care practitioners will assess the patient's clinical condition over the phone, supported by clinical support software. 

Anthony Marsh, Essex Ambulance Service chief executive, said: “As a result of our new clinical support desk, patients will avoid unnecessary trips to A&E and more ambulances will be free to deal with serious or life-threatening emergencies.”


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The practitioners will decide on the best and most appropriate care for the patient's needs. Options range from advice on self-care and a referral to a patient's GP to the arrangement of a visit from a practitioner or emergency response team.

The number of emergency calls received by the trust increases annually, and already the figure for 2006 is up more than 10% on the same period last year. It is expected the clinical support desk will offer an alternative care path for at least 20% of the 2,100 Category C calls received monthly for condition such as falls and cut fingers.

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In simple terms, that will free 400 to 450 ambulance responses a month, helping to ensure enough ambulances are available to reach serious cases as quickly as possible.

Mr Marsh said: “The launch of the clinical support desk is a great step forward in terms of the service the trust provides to its patients. The enhancements we have made fully support the nationwide changes made to the ambulance service last year in terms of providing faster response times, better telephone advice and more care in the home for patients.

“Our trust's overriding goal is to provide the right care, in the right place at the right time, and the clinical support desk will help us to achieve that.”

Clinical support desk project manager and emergency care practitioner, Matt Mulloy, said: “Clinical support desks have already been successfully implemented by several other ambulance services in the UK, and we have worked closely with them to learn from their experiences as we developed this project.

“Ultimately we are working to ensure that anyone dialling 999 receives appropriate care as quickly as possible. The clinical support desk will enable us to do this more effectively for the less urgent calls received each day.”

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