Relieving the pressure on A&E

More than 2,000 patients have been redirected away from Sunderland’s A&E departments since the introduction of an ambulance scheme.

Initially funded by the All Together Better Sunderland vanguard partnership, NEAS’s Paramedic Pathfinder project has helped more than 2,300 patients seek the most appropriate care for their needs by allowing ambulance clinicians to refer directly to a variety of alternative care providers across the city.

Of those patients, just over 70% were seen by a GP, the Recovery at Home Service or an Urgent Care Centre.

Pathfinder involved the training of around 100 NEAS ambulance clinicians to use a grounding-breaking clinical triage tool for patient assessments. The pathfinder triage tool works by enabling clinicians to recognise symptoms rather than the need to make a definitive diagnosis. Ambulance clinicians work from the top of the Paramedic Pathfinder flow chart to the bottom and must eliminate all other possibilities before going onto the next step. This helps them make extremely accurate face-to-face patient assessments and confidently choose the most suitable place for treatment. 

As well as improving the patient’s experience by providing care tailored exactly to their needs, Pathfinder is helping to significantly reduce the load on Sunderland’s A&E departments.

NEAS is now looking at how the model can be replicated in other parts of the region.

Paul Aitken Fell, consultant paramedic at NEAS said: “The Pathfinder scheme is working particularly well in Sunderland where there’s a good choice of alternative care providers and it’s great to see more than 2,000 patients avoiding a lengthy wait in A&E and getting the care most appropriate to their needs.

“Our ambulance clinicians will err on the side of caution when taking patients with non-critical conditions to A&E but Pathfinder is giving them the confidence and endorsement to choose another option and ensure patients get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”

For more information about the project, email Michael.simpson@neas.nhs.uk

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