Statement regarding staff incentive to manage calls to patients with minor illnesses and injuries

Director of Service Delivery Paul Woodrow said:

“Demand on our Service continues to rise, and in the last year we have attended 14 per cent more patients with life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

“Traditionally, when people with minor illnesses and injuries call 999, we have sent them an ambulance. We are no longer doing this as these patients do not need to be treated by an ambulance crew and they don’t require hospital treatment. We need our medics to be available to respond quickly to patients in life-threatening situations or with serious injuries.

“To ensure ambulances are available for people who really need them, we provide advice over the phone to patients with minor conditions or refer them to other healthcare providers like their GP or NHS Direct.

“We triage all 999 calls. Patients in a life-threatening condition will get a fast response. Patients with a minor illness or injury get a second call from a clinician who further assesses their condition. Once a patient has been clinically assessed as not needing an emergency response, we refer them to NHS Direct, another healthcare provider or give them advice over the phone.

“The incentive scheme is to encourage staff to manage lower priority calls more appropriately, so that people who call us with conditions like coughs, colds and splinters are not sent an ambulance response.”

– Ends –

Notes to editors:

  • Despite a 14 per cent increase in calls to our most seriously ill and injured patients this year, we have reached 25,000 more of these patients within the national target time of eight minutes.
  • Overall we are four per cent busier this year than the one before.
  • We are the highest utilised ambulance service in the UK. Our crews are dealing with patients 80 per cent of their time. This can peak to 95 per cent when it is really busy. This compares to around 60 per cent for other ambulance trusts.
  • Last year we received 1.6 million calls. Over 200,000 of these calls were referred to our clinical telephone advice team, and of these 141,000 were not sent an ambulance. The incentive scheme applies to the management of the calls referred to the clinical telephone advice team.