Ambulance calls up 15,000

CALLS to the East Anglian ambulance service have increased by around 15,000 in the past year.But by the end of this year, a new scheme to give patients medical advice by telephone will have prevented more than 5,000 unnecessary ambulance service journeys.

CALLS to the East Anglian ambulance service have increased by around 15,000 in the past year.

But by the end of this year, a new scheme to give patients medical advice by telephone will have prevented more than 5,000 unnecessary ambulance service journeys.

In the past, the ambulance service had to send an ambulance to every call.

Calls that have now been dealt with over the phone by a nurse have included a stressed ex-smoker who feared she was about to restart her habit, a man with a pain in his nose for the past six years and a woman who had stubbed her toe.

Nurse team leader Mal Southgate said the new scheme means front-line crews can answer life-threatening calls more quickly.

He said: "The number of emergency calls has increased by about 15,000 in the past year, so finding alternative ways of dealing with patients with minor conditions is vital.

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"The new scheme helps us but it also helps these patients because, in the past, some of them they may have faced an unnecessary trip to an accident and emergency department.

"This way we can not only give them health advice but also refer them on to all of the different types of care provided by other agencies."

"So far we have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction from our patients.

"There have been one or two people who have been unhappy at not receiving an ambulance, but we have to do the right thing for all our patients and that means giving each and every one the most appropriate treatment we can."

Under the new scheme, an emergency call is answered in the normal way by ambulance control call-takers.

As soon as the patient's condition is known not to be serious and is classified in category C, the call is passed to a nurse adviser.

An ambulance can be dispatched if the patient's condition deteriorates or is more serious than first thought.

The government allowed ambulance services to use other ways of responding to category C cases from January.

Rob Lawrence, director of operations for the East Anglian ambulance service, said patients should only dial 999 in an emergency.

He said: "We don't want to put off anyone who has a genuine need for an ambulance, but those with minor problems should really be finding other ways to access the health system."

Suggestions include visiting a GP, a pharmacy or out-of-hours health centre or ringing NHS Direct.

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