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News : New Initiative Sees Reduction in Inappropriate 999 Calls Made to Ambulance Service
Wrexham, Wales, Aug 30, 2016 -- An initiative launched by the Welsh Ambulance Service has reduced the number of calls made by some frequent callers by as much as 74%.
Each year the Trust attends over 250,000 emergency calls, however there are still some patients who call 999 inappropriately, when there may be a more suitable service available elsewhere in the NHS.
In January, Clinical Support Officers identified 71 patients across Wales who were responsible for making 437 calls between them that month at a cost of £73,226.
By April, due to ongoing collaborative work with Local Health Boards, the same 71 patients made 111 calls and the cost of responding to them was brought down to £20,468.
It comes after a project was launched in 2015 focusing on frequent callers, aimed at establishing any unmet care needs they might have.
Data is shared on those who use the service more than five times in a month in partnership with Local Health Boards across Wales, including Cardiff and Vale, which is one of the Trust’s collaborators.
Once it has been collated, a multi-agency group meets to identify and provide support to them, which could involve providing increased care packages, or community support via third sector or voluntary agencies.
When a known frequent caller dials 999 their call is often intercepted by a paramedic or nurse working in the clinical contact centre.
They are then able to use the patient-specific plans to signpost them to a more appropriate agency, or provide non-emergency transport rather than an emergency ambulance.
Robin Petterson, the Trust’s Frequent Caller lead, said: "The important thing to remember is that the patient sits at the heart of our work. People often call 999, when they simply panic or don’t know how to contact other services that are available.
"The great thing about this new way of working is that due to the increased communication and collaboration by all agencies, the patient is receiving more appropriate care for their needs.
"The wider benefit to NHS Wales and the Trust is a reduction in any unnecessary calls, admissions or investigations that may have taken place previously.
"The Emergency Departments are noting a reduction in attendances and time spent in the department, which also has a positive impact on freeing up bed space for ambulances that seek to handover their patients."
Robin said that there have already been clear signs of the project’s success, but warned that court action can still be pursued as a last resort, when all attempts to provide better solutions for the patient’s needs have been exhausted.
Recently a woman from Barry was jailed for a number of charges, which included calling the Welsh Ambulance Service more than 400 times in the last two years.
Robin added: "In the worst case scenario we have to accept that that there are some cases where action via the courts may be the only way to address this kind of behaviour.
"In the 18 months the teams have been undertaking this work, two patients have been sent to prison for misusing the ambulance service, as well as other agencies.
"Some patients contact us up to 90 times in a month when there are known agencies that can provide support.
"In these situations, this behaviour can impact on the service that we are attempting to provide those with genuine clinical needs, and we would urge all patients to contact us only when they have a life threatening emergency."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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The Welsh Ambulance Service is an NHS trust and the national ambulance service for Wales.
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2016