New ambulance scheme could cut admissions to A&E wards in Sunderland

The New Year got off to a busy start for the North East Ambulance Service.
The New Year got off to a busy start for the North East Ambulance Service.
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A new scheme could see fewer patients taken to Sunderland’s A&E departments and diverted to other services in the city.

The pilot, being introduced by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), aims to reduce the load on the city’s emergency wards by more than 1,825 attendances every year.

“We need to look at ways to reduce the amount of patients being inappropriately transported to Emergency Departments and are confident this pilot scheme will prove extremely successful in doing just that.”

Jeannie Henderson

Funded by Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the Paramedic Pathfinder will train NEAS ambulance clinicians to use a clinical triage tool, which helps them to make accurate patient assessments and confidently choose the most appropriate place for treatment.

As well as A&E departments, it could include referral to a patient’s GP, being managed at home or by accessing Sunderland’s urgent care services, such as an urgent care centre or the Recovery at Home Team.

About 80% of patients in the Sunderland area who get an ambulance are taken to the Emergency Department. This is above the regional average but the new pilot is expected to reduce this figure by as many as five patients daily.

The Paramedic Pathfinder triage tool works by enabling ambulance clinicians to recognise symptoms rather than the need to make a definitive diagnosis.

It’s estimated the scheme could save the NHS around £650,000 annually.

Jeannie Henderson from Sunderland CCG said: “There has been a 47% increase in emergency admissions over the past fifteen years, costing the NHS £12.5billion.

“We need to look at ways to reduce the amount of patients being inappropriately transported to Emergency Departments and are confident this pilot scheme will prove extremely successful in doing just that.

“It has already been adopted by a number of other ambulance services across the UK with the overarching purpose of avoiding long and inappropriate transfers to Emergency Departments and maximising the use of the new Urgent Care Centres.”

Paul Aitken Fell, consultant paramedic at the North East Ambulance Service said: “The Paramedic Pathfinder scheme will support our ambulance clinicians even further to make the most appropriate and safe decisions about patients’ care, which will support Sunderland’s system of integrated care.

“Currently our ambulance clinicians will err on the side of caution taking patients with non-critical conditions to A&E based on their diagnosis.

“This system will ensure patients get the right care, in the right place, at the right time by giving our paramedics the confidence and endorsement to choose another option.

“As well as reducing the load on Sunderland’s A&E Departments, this will help improve the patients’ experience by providing care tailored exactly to their needs.”

NEAS covers 3,200 square miles across the North East region, employing more than 2,500 staff and serving a population of 2.7 million people.

In 2015/16 the service answered 1.160 million emergency 999 and NHS 111 calls, responded to 295,855 incidents that resulted in a patient being taken to hospital, treated and discharged, 19,949 patients with telephone advice and treated and discharged 85,021 patients at home.