Ambulance sector

NHS leaders call for expanded roles within the ambulance sector

NHS leaders are calling for ambulance services to take on a greater role within urgent and emergency care (UEC) to help ease system pressures, reduce patient risk, and improve the environment for staff.

In the A vision for the NHS ambulance sector report, NHS Providers, the NHS Confederation, and the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) say that the ambulance sector can offer the NHS more in the way of UEC provision.

The group calls for a stronger focus on prevention and for investment in out-of-hospital to be rebalanced.

“Ambulance providers have great potential to help solve some of the key pressures on the NHS…”

The report says the ambulance sector can develop in two key areas, including being:

  • The lead coordinator and navigator for access to UEC and support agencies, making use of multi-professional clinical hubs and assessment services at system level
  • Responders to patients needing out-of-hospital care, with more direct referral pathways to other system partners as well as advanced skills and paramedicine models to support effective at-home care

“Ambulance providers have great potential to help solve some of the key pressures on the NHS and improve how urgent and emergency care is provided for their populations,” said Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

This will be done through a shift to prevention and treating people closer to home, added Matthew.

Ambulance services are capable of this change for a variety of reasons, according to the report.

Firstly, the 24/7 regional and national infrastructure gives them the ability to see issues and gaps that others cannot.

The broad range of professionals and skillsets mean services are able to triage and operate autonomously in all environments.

"We know there is real potential in consolidating the role of ambulance services…”

The third point centres around the fact the ambulance sector also has public trust, is accustomed to interacting with patients out of the hospital, and has the ability to see ‘hard to reach’ patients.

Ambulance professionals have interoperable telephony and connectivity infrastructure, as well as real-time data insight too.

"We know there is real potential in consolidating the role of ambulance services in coordinating and delivering urgent care, bringing benefits for patients and staff,” explained Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers.

He added: “This can be a key ingredient of a wider shift in the NHS towards a stronger focus on prevention and more care provided closer to home.” This is something that trust leaders want, according to Julian.

The report concludes that investment to increase recruitment and enable the development of paramedics and the wider ambulance workforce could be good value for money and help patients access the right care, faster.

This approach has shown benefits in small pockets but is yet to be a part of a wider UEC strategy.

"Having developed this vision with our members, we really welcome the support of NHS Providers and NHS Confederation,” said Anna Parry, the managing director of AACE.

Image credit: iStock

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