Manchester, UK, Nov 12, 2020 -- The ambulance service has revealed plans to recruit more than 120 call handlers and add 100 vehicles to its fleet to cope with the Covid winter.
Bosses are also exploring ways to reduce pressure on the 999 service - including working with BT to see if more calls can be filtered to the less urgent 111 service, where appropriate.
It comes after a challenging fortnight, with a major incident last Monday sparked by a surge in calls and resulting in delays and queues of up to 12 ambulances outside A&E departments.
On Monday, meanwhile, the service put out a Tweet warning of 'exceptionally busy' conditions amid reports from paramedics on the front line already feeling the pressure.
Responding to queries from the Manchester Evening News about how they would deal with a winter fraught with challenges and exacerbated by the pandemic, NWAS revealed their plans to help cope with the second wave hitting during winter.
They said they had already recruited 180 call handlers and support staff during the first wave, with plans to add a further 123 throughout the winter - including clinicians to give advice to crews on the road.
A spokesman added: " We are also expanding our fleet of vehicles to more than 400 over the coming weeks. That’s 100 more ambulances available on the road."
To cope with pressure on the call centre, NWAS have said they have expanded their 'clinical support hub' to give medical advice over the phone and reduce unnecessary ambulance call-outs. Around 11 per cent of 999 calls are already dealt with in this way, they said.
A spokesman added: "We are also working with BT who take the initial 999 call to see if any can be filtered to the less urgent 111 service where appropriate.
"Also not everyone who gets an emergency response will go to hospital. We are often able to give medical treatment and advice at the scene where appropriate, that’s reducing the proportion of patients we take to hospitals. Currently 30 percent of incidents are dealt with in this way."
The spokesman said that winter was always a challenging time and that the ambulance service does not escape those pressures, which were 'all the more challenging' this year due to the pandemic.
He added: "However, as we always do at this time of year, the trust has taken measures to ease those pressures through our annual winter planning.
"And while Covid inevitably continues to affect our own staffing numbers, we have a concentrated focus on infection control inside our call centres and sites to reduce the risk.
"We want to take this opportunity to thank our staff who continue to show professionalism and commitment in their roles throughout the trust, we encourage all members of staff to raise any patient safety concerns they have.
"We continue to say to the public, the best way to support NWAS is to only call 999 in an emergency and or a life threatening situation. And we thank those who do use alternatives if they can, like 111 online or GP, pharmacist or walk in centre."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
BT is provider of communications services and solutions for everybody in the UK and for corporate customers in the rest of Europe, with global reach through partnerships. BT provides services for all UK customers, network services and solutions for communication companies, worldwide business solutions, internet services, and advanced research and technology.
About North West Ambulance Service :
The North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust is the second largest ambulance service in the country, providing 24 hour, 365 days a year accident and emergency services to those in need of emergency medical treatment and transport.
Published: Friday, November 13, 2020
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