North East Ambulance Service has been working on a number of successful schemes to reduce the pressure on our frontline staff and for the benefit of our patients.
NEAS is working with Northern Doctors Urgent Care (NDUC) to build on a telephone advice line for paramedics to help them consider an alternative pathway of care other than taking the patient to an A&E department.
The Paramedic Advisory Service (PMAS) has been live for over a year in Teeside and South Tyneside and has now been extended to include Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside as well as County Durham and Darlington.
Utilising winter resilience money, we have also been able to fund additional experienced nurse clinicians from NDUC to re-triage 111 calls that have resulted in a green ambulance disposition, with NEAS clinicians from our clinical hub also providing additional capacity where possible.
The initiative, which began on 6 January, currently operates from 6pm-10pm weekdays and 8am-8pm weekends. So far approximately 1,124 out of 1,405 calls have been given a reduced urgency or diverted to a more appropriate service, such as providing advice or seeing a primary care clinician.
We estimate that this activity decrease could save the health economy approximately £9.2m.
This service will run until 31 March but, due to the unprecedented system-wide pressures, we believe it is required all year round. This will form part of our discussions during the forthcoming contract negotiation round.
Over the winter period, NEAS also introduced a new role, Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officers (HALOs), who assist both hospitals and ambulance crews to help with patient handovers and turnaround times.
Three HALOs are in operation every day from 10am-10pm until 31 March. Two are based City Hospitals Sunderland and University Hospital North Durham, while the third ‘roams’ between hospitals depending on demand. A fourth HALO is based at NEAS headquarters, providing a key communication link between NEAS crews, casualty staff, and control.
Between 11 November and the end of January, 263 HALO shifts had been covered. Feedback so far has been positive and a comprehensive review of the initiative is planned, including a review of the impact on downtime and post-handover to clear delays.
NEAS has also played a central role in the implementation of the Flight Deck scheme, led by North East of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECs).
The purpose of this scheme, which also ends in March, uses real time region wide capacity and demand information on unscheduled care to make proactive informed decisions about hospital admissions. This has helped ease demand slightly on trusts under severe pressure as well as improving turn around times for NEAS crews.