North West Ambulance Trust not reaching patients with extremely life-threatening conditions in time

The North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust failed to hit its target of reaching 75% of patients who are in an extremely life-threatening condition within eight minutes.

When someone calls 999, they are asked a series of questions to determine the clinical need of the patient and which category they will fall into:
•Red 1 – extremely life-threatening
•Red 2 – serious and potentially life-threatening
•Greens 1, 2, 3 and 4

The Trust says missing the target is due to  “an unprecedented rise in the number of seriously ill patients”.

Regionally, the Trust has seen an increase, particularly in May and June, of 6.8% in all Red calls compared to April, May and June of last year.

Director of Operations, Derek Cartwright explains: “These patients need our help urgently, they have life-threatening conditions and it is these people we need to reach within eight minutes. We’re seeing people with conditions such as respiratory and heart conditions which can exacerbated by the warm weather and in this period, we have also had the World Cup and four bank holidays which brings incidents involving alcohol.

“This rise in activity has had an effect on our performance and unfortunately, we have not attained our national Red 1 performance target of 75% for the first quarter and have reported a performance of 73.5%.”

While the Trust prioritises Red 1 and 2 calls, there is also substantial investment and attention being paid to more effectively dealing with the Green calls which range from a response time of between 20 minutes and four hours.

Due to additional funding from Commissioners, NWAS is now able to pilot the development of a new Community Paramedic model in various hard to reach locations across the North West. In addition, the Service is placing some of the Senior Paramedics and Paramedics on rapid response vehicles on Green 999 incidents, the aim being to reduce unnecessary hospital attendances. These two initiatives will help support the Trust drive to help patients by providing safe care closer to home.

This additional funding has also enabled the Trust to put on hold some of the resource reductions which were proposed last month.

Mr Cartwright said: “We have in place a ‘hear and treat’ and ‘see and treat’ system, whereby the less serious calls can receive either telephone self care advice, or can be referred to other healthcare providers such as a GP or walk-in centre. We know that for some of our callers, while they do need some form of treatment, the accident and emergency department is not the right place for them so by offering telephone or face to face advice, we are reducing the number of ambulance journeys which frees up our vehicles to attend the more serious life-threatening conditions.

“While we understand that to everyone who rings 999, their problem is an urgent one, however, we have to prioritise our resources and, while we strive to reach everyone as quickly as possible, it is likely that those with less serious conditions may have to wait longer for an ambulance.”

While the Trust can refer patients to other services such as 111, walk-in centres, GP or their local pharmacies, patients are advised to consider these services before calling 999 if their condition is not life-threatening.
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