Welsh Ambulance Service on pathway to success
The Welsh Ambulance Service is celebrating the success of a new system designed to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and support care closer to patients’ homes.
Alternative Care Pathways for non-injured fallers and people who have had epilepsy and hypoglycaemic episodes also aims to make better use of community-based services and improve patient experience.
Instead of taking them to hospital, paramedics can refer patients to their GP or an identified community team using a 24/7 internal telephone service operated by trained referral agents.
The Welsh Ambulance Service worked with local health boards to build on existing pathways and redesign the system.
More than 2,100 referrals have been made for non-urgent fallers since the service launched last September. More than 440 contacts have been made with patients’ GPs to share information about resolved hypoglycaemic episodes, and more than 270 contacts have been made with GPs about resolved epilepsy episodes. Thus, more than 2,820 patients so far have benefited from a pathways referral.
Paul Hughes, Medical Director at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said:
"Demand on our ambulance service increases every year, and it is becoming increasingly clear that transporting patients to emergency departments who do not need to go there is not in the best interests of the patient, nor sustainable for the health service.
"Across Wales, there is a clear initiative to develop community-based services which can improve the quality of life for patients, by re-focussing NHS resources from reactive to pro-active hospital admission prevention.
"I’m very pleased with the enthusiasm and the uptake of this service by our paramedics.”
The new system was first piloted in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board area, and later rolled out across Hywel Dda, Aneurin Bevan, Cwm Taf and Powys health board areas.
To make a referral, paramedics call the 24-hour co-ordination point number, and the existing Health Information team within NHS Direct Wales act as co-ordination agents for the ‘Alternative Care Pathways.’
They enter details onto a bespoke database then make the referral on the paramedic’s behalf to community teams for falls screening, or the patient’s GP when the patient is left at home following a hypoglycaemic or epilepsy episode.
NHS Direct Wales nurses who triage non-injured fallers on the telephone can also make referrals to community teams.
Patients will then be given a ‘Stay at Home’ leaflet containing useful information about the referral process along with useful contact numbers.
Dr Hughes added:
"Pathways reduce pressure on overburdened A&E departments, and ensure patients receive the most appropriate care, from the right clinician, at the right time and in the right place.
"There are considerable benefits associated with alternative care pathways - not least for patients - and we will continue to work with our partners to accelerate their development as a priority.”