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India group photographSouth Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) has marked a year of its pioneering healthcare consultancy initiative in Andhra Pradesh, India with a visit from the British Deputy High Commissioner.

Dr Andrew Fleming met SCAS representatives based in the region yesterday (Wednesday) who, in partnership with the Aurobindo Pharma Foundation (APF), have been working to improve healthcare provision and ambulance services in the country.

The project became the first NHS international partnership with India when it was launched in July last year – and attention quickly turned to SCAS supporting the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Andrew Fleming in ambulance

It followed a decision by the Indian Government to begin a significant investment programme to address wide gaps in healthcare provision inspired by the ‘free at point of contact’ NHS ambulance services available in the UK – and resulted in an approach to SCAS for guidance.

Over the course of the year, SCAS staff have supported the expansion of 108 Emergency Response Services – the equivalent of the UK’s 999 service – and the introduction of 104 Mobile Medical Unit Services – the equivalent of the UK’s NHS 111 and GP visiting services – in Andhra Pradesh.

The south-eastern coastal region in India is the seventh largest state in the country with a similar population size to the UK.

The agreement between SCAS and APF is due to run until 2027 and will include the development of SCAS-supported clinical guidelines and governance, education, wider healthcare system development and a workforce development programme.

Dr Andrew Fleming in call centre

The partnership is supported by Healthcare UK, an initiative led by the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the Department for International Trade to promote the NHS in overseas markets and the model has the potential to be rolled out across other states and countries in the future.

“We have had a very successful first year operating internationally as an organisation, securing the first NHS contract in India and launching enhanced equivalents of both 999 and a combined 111 and GP visiting service for a significant population of India,” said Richard McDonald, Clinical International Liaison Officer for SCAS.

“Within the first month we oversaw the introduction of 1,000 new ambulances in addition to the existing 350 vehicles already in service and have shared our knowledge to help with the much-needed rapid development of ambulance services and healthcare provision in India.

“We have also been on-hand to support the country through the pandemic by providing valuable input and guidance and our local team enjoyed welcoming Dr Fleming to the 108 Emergency Response Services control room this week to find out more about our progress.”