A&E won’t be first call for ambulances

Rick Shaw
Rick Shaw

New ambulance service staff and procedures will result in better experiences for patients in the Lancaster district.

Rick Shaw, Morecambe Bay area manager for North West Ambulance Service (NWAS), said that new vehicles and paramedics, new ambulance liaison officers and “rapid handover” procedures at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) should reduce the number of people needing unnecessary treatment at A&E.

It would also reduce turnaround time for paramedics to get back out into the community and respond to calls more quickly, said Mr Shaw.

Mr Shaw, himself still a responder, said that the changes were “what the staff had been asking for”.

He said: “The whole ethos is to reduce the number of people going into unnecessary streams of care.

“If we can now begin to access the area’s health centres, we don’t need to go into A&E as much, and the patient is getting the right kind of care.

“What we’re trying to do is create more options, instead of defaulting to A&E, we’ve got access to other parts of the service.

“Demand is going up, and there aren’t finite resources to be able to respond to patient’s needs.”

New Community Care Pathways, developed by NWAS, will help paramedics establish what the best care procedure should be and, depending on the severity of the patient’s needs, they will be directed to either a community team, the new out-of-hours care centre in Morecambe, the A&E at the RLI or, for particularly major traumas, the Royal Preston Hospital.

Patients will also have detailed information sheets kept within their homes to help with this.

Mr Shaw said: “We’ve got vehicles going further than we would normally see them going and we’ve had to put in some practical resources to cope with this.

“In Lancaster, there will be an extra four paramedics and four emergency medical technicians. There’s another ambulance being placed at 
Lancaster, two frontline and one rapid response vehicles.

“There will also be two ambulance liaison officers at the RLI, appointed through funding from the new Clinical Commissioning Group. They will rotate between medical admissions and the Emergency Department, and we’ve already seen improvements in turnaround times.”

There will also be a new ambulance station at Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal.

A new rapid handover system at the RLI, using new technology to book in patients will mean that if the patient is classified as being able to wait in the waiting area with minor injuries, then ambulance crews can leave them there.

Mr Shaw said: “It all means crews aren’t waiting around stuck in the Emergency Department.

“There’s still more we can do, but this is a good starting point. We need to move forward. These things will begin to make a real difference to patients.

“These are not cost saving measures, they are there to benefit the patients.

“It means we’re not always defaulting to A&E, we now have some choices, and we’re building better healthcare for our future.”