Nurses have helped to prevent hundreds of unnecessary admissions to hospital in North West England by responding to 999 calls and treating patients in the community.
North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS) launched a pilot earlier this year of a new urgent care practitioner (UCP) position, which has seen nurses employed for the first time by the trust in a role responding to patients.
“Nurses can make a huge difference to way pre-hospital care is delivered in the future”
The UCP team is made up of seven nurses and five paramedics who respond to 999 calls which could possibly be treated in the community, as opposed to having to use an emergency ambulance to take people to hospital.
Nurses have been working on vehicles equipped to treat people on the scene and ensure patients who can be cared for at home have all the help they need, referring them on to other local health services if required.
According to a pilot evaluation, the first few months of activity has showed that 72% of patients seen by the UCPs have been provided with the right care without needing an emergency ambulance to take them to hospital. This type of care is known as ”see and treat”.
Nathan Garlick was an accident and emergency nurse before he joined NWAS to become an UCP in Greater Manchester.
He said: “I saw this job opportunity and immediately thought of the endless possibilities and immense potential.
“Nurses can make a huge difference to way pre-hospital care is delivered in the future and it’s great to see the ambulance service responding to the changing needs of the public.”
“This helps to keep ambulance resources free to respond more quickly to life-threatening emergencies”
The UCPs also work in the 999 control centres and provide clinical self-care advice to patients over the phone - this is known as “hear and treat”.
“We can conduct a holistic assessment of the patient’s needs, looking at their health, social and wellbeing needs and how we can improve our patient’s lives,” added Mr Garlick.
“We use every opportunity to promote health and self-care.
“We’re getting a really excellent reception from patients, their relatives and other health care professionals and every day I get 100% job satisfaction.”
The pilot saw just over half (51%) of all the patients spoken to by the UCPs supported over the phone without needing further ambulance service intervention, according to the findings.
In total, the pilot is estimated to have saved more than 1,000 ambulance journeys during a 90-day period, which is approximately 1,625 hours or almost 68 full days of emergency ambulance time.
This saving means emergency ambulance resources would have remained available to attend other, more serious incidents, claimed the trust.
The pilot evaluation follows the recent publication of the Lord Carter review, which said the NHS could free up millions of pounds if ambulance services were able to “see and treat” more patients.
Mark Newton, assistant director of transformation at NWAS, said the findings from the new role’s pilot were “really encouraging”.
“People deserve to get the right care, at the right time, in the right place, every time and for many, that doesn’t necessarily mean an emergency ambulance to the nearest A&E department,” he added.
Mr Newton said the UCP pilot was just one of the initiatives the trust was working on to enable patients to be treated closer to home.
“This helps to keep ambulance resources free to respond more quickly to life-threatening emergencies,” he added.