Ambulances are in danger of being treated as a taxi service to A&E, the BBC has reported. This won’t come as a big surprise to some of the Trusts we have been speaking with recently. Although most Trusts know us for our work connecting GPs with hospital clinicians, some are asking if we are willing to work with ambulance paramedics too.
The challenge with ambulance paramedics is providing the right advice reliably within a short timeframe. Speedy advice can sometimes give paramedics the opportunity to treat the patient at the scene. Alternatively, the patient might be advised to access treatment through their GP or local clinics. A&E isn’t necessarily the only option.
This is, of course, easier said than done. We recently received a document that listed all the advice that paramedics can access in a particular area. It was a long list of different services, each with different access numbers and different opening hours. It’s easy to understand why a paramedic, worried about a patient, may simply opt for the safest option of taking the patient to A&E.
We already provide some ambulance staff with access to clinical and navigation advice lines that GPs use. We have, however, just agreed to pilot a project that puts ambulance staff front and centre.
The project is between the Cardiology department at a major hospital and the local ambulance service. c. 400 paramedics will use the Consultant Connect App on their mobile device. In the first instance, they will use the app to take a photo of a patient’s ECG trace, add patient details and share it immediately with hospital cardiologists. They will then use the app to place a phone call to the duty cardiologist to discuss that ECG.
Over 100 members of the cardiology department (including specialist nurses and registrars alongside consultants) will be able to see the photos and accept the calls. This means that the paramedic will be able to get reliable access to immediate cardiology advice, which will translate into the patient getting the right care first time. For some patients who would otherwise have been conveyed, this will mean that they receive reassurance faster and avoid the inconvenience of an unnecessary trip to hospital.
This is an exciting pilot that could have a meaningful impact on patient care. If the project reduces conveyances it will be easy to expand it to other specialties within both the Trust and the community. Easy access to the right advice in a timely fashion could mean that ambulances become more about getting patients the right care rather than getting them to A&E.
We are looking forward to working with the piloting Trust and ambulance service and will publish outcome data as it becomes available.
Please get in touch with us on 01865 261467 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss how Consultant Connect can improve communications between clinicians in your area.