NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens has announced that ambulance crews across England will receive 30,000 iPads to improve patient care efficiency.
The devices will allow ambulance crews to send photographs from the scene of an accident to stroke specialists and other clinicians on standby in emergency departments, so the process can be sped up when the patient arrives at hospital.
The photographs can help emergency departments organise themselves based on the severity of the incident, as well as how many patients they can expect.
It will also mean that paramedics can access vital health records, helping them assess patients’ injuries, and decide whether they should be taken to hospital or treated at the scene. Paramedics will be able to complete digital handovers on the way to hospital, making them available more quickly to attend their next call.
Sir Stevens will announce the initiative at the Ambulance Leadership Forum today.
He said: “Ambulance crews have been at the forefront of the pandemic, routinely dealing with life and death situations, and often first on the scene to treat and diagnose critically ill patients.
“These devices are another tool for our highly skilled paramedics and ambulance technicians as they continue to respond to the country’s most critically ill and injured patients.
“It is another example of the health service innovating and harnessing technology to improve patient care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.”
The NHS Long Term Plan has committed to providing staff working in the community with mobile devices and digital services. The initiative is funded by NHSX, who are leading the transformation of health and social care through digital technology.
The ratio of iPads to staff will vary based on the demand, but in other areas such as London, every ambulance worker will have access to one.
Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said: “At NHSX we are working to help frontline staff use digital technology to transform the service they provide, and these tablets will give paramedics an extra edge.”
The use of iPads has been piloted by ambulance crews in London and the South East, with early results showing the effectiveness of having access to vital information or specialist medical advice in emergency call outs.
Dr Fionna Moore, Medical Director at South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS FT, said: “The iPads are proving invaluable in assisting our clinicians in the rapid identification of stroke patients to expedite their treatment, and help identify the most appropriate clinical pathway.
“This direct link to local experts by ‘bringing them into the back of an ambulance’ via facetime, is something we are keen to explore further to see how it can be developed in other areas of care for the benefit of our patients.”
At London Ambulance Service (LAS) NHS Trust, paramedics use digitised patient records to benefit their clinical decision-making. This helps ensure patients receive the most effective treatment tailored to their medical history.
Stuart Crichton, a paramedic and the Chief Clinical Information Officer at LAS, said: “The successful rollout of electronic devices across the capital has helped our frontline crews feel better supported when making quick decisions for their patients, with the wealth of information available at their fingertips, meaning each patient is getting the correct and most appropriate care for their needs.”
Minister for Health, Edward Argar said: “Our paramedics and ambulance crews play a vital role on the NHS frontline, day-in, day-out. By rolling out these iPads we are harnessing modern technology, helping them to help you, by enabling them to continue providing the very best emergency care more quickly to more patients.
“Investing in these devices will help the NHS to build back better by ensuring patients and staff are benefitting from the latest technology, and is part of our commitment through the NHS Long Term Plan to improve care for the future.”
NHSX is supporting the nationwide rollout of the devices through eight English ambulance trusts, following the success in London and the South East.