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Fiat ambulanceSouth Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award in recognition of a pioneering initiative that is helping patients receive the right treatment more quickly and avoid unnecessary transfers to emergency departments.

The urgent care pathways project, which was established in 2019, has secured SCAS a place as one of four finalists in the running to be named Ambulance Trust of the Year at the Health Business Awards 2021 which take place tomorrow (Thursday).

It comes just a month after SCAS featured among nine finalists in the Health Service Journal’s Trust of the Year award for its wider contribution to regional, national and global healthcare.

The urgent care initiative sees ambulance service clinicians take a leading role in assessing and treating patients over the phone or in their homes when handling 111 or 999 calls and determining their next destination for ongoing care.

It has led to many patients being treated at home, referred onto their GP, transported to a treatment centre or admitted directly into a specialist hospital service covering medical, surgical, paediatric, respiratory, frailty or mental health needs.

urgent care pathways - SCAS Connect - practitioner inside ambulanceMore than 37,000 patients to-date who would previously have been conveyed to busy emergency departments for further assessment and investigations have had their journeys changed.

In addition to reducing delays accessing care and reducing pressures on emergency departments at the front door of hospitals it has also proved an invaluable asset during the COVID-19 pandemic for managing residents in care homes and avoiding the need for hospital admissions through treatment at home, referral to community services or by-passing emergency departments.

The project focuses on moderately unwell patients with medical conditions, older patients who are frail with chronic conditions who are at risk of falls, those with respiratory conditions such as COPD and asthma, people in mental health crises or children who require a specialist paediatric assessment.

Ambulance staff are supported to assess patients at home and take a lead role in working with GPs and consultants in hospitals to determine a patient’s next steps.

They have also piloted paramedic-led blood testing at the bedside on frail patients which saw 58% avoid hospital admission as a result of more comprehensive assessments in the community.

In addition, an online directory – SCAS Connect – was developed to categorise all of the urgent care options available across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire to assist staff with locating clinical and support services and making the right clinical decision in the community.

In an extension of this work in February SCAS became the first ambulance service in the country to supply COVID-19 patients with home oxygen monitoring kits if they didn’t require immediate admission to hospital but were at higher risk of complications.

In the same month the Trust introduced COVID-19 testing of all 999 patients visited at home – including those without symptoms – if they required transfer to hospital to speed up handovers and release crews more quickly.

Chris Jackson, a specialist paramedic and urgent care pathways lead at SCAS“It is great to receive further national recognition of this project and for it to be the innovation which has secured the Trust the opportunity to be named Ambulance Trust of the Year,” said Chris Jackson (pictured right), a specialist paramedic and urgent care pathways lead at SCAS.

“Ambulance services are positioned perfectly as ‘care navigators’ given the fact our mobile clinicians are dispersed across vast geographies 24/7 and in a unique position to facilitate the most appropriate care for patients.”

He added: “This project is truly changing how we care for patients by enhancing the skills of our paramedics, ensuring patients get the right care as quickly as possible and reducing the burden on emergency departments – and that has never been more important.”

Mark Ainsworth, director of operations at SCAS, said: “This is one of the biggest clinical transformational pieces of work we have ever undertaken and it is leading to the delivery of better care and a more integrated system.

“It is a great achievement for the team behind it to receive this national recognition and fantastic news for all of our staff who continue to deal with significant levels of demand and pressure – positive developments and awareness such as this are vital to morale.”

The Health Business Awards 2021, hosted by Dr Mark Porter, will take place virtually from 1pm tomorrow when winners will be announced in 17 categories including Healthcare IT, Hospital Building, Innovation in Mental Health and the Outstanding Achievement Award.