Nurses lead expansion of local Ambulance Service Clinical Support Desk

Tuesday, 14 September, 2010

Left to right - Nurse Practitioners Rebecca Douthwaite, Sam Mc Dowell, Julie Channon and Sian Jones

Sue Boyce, Clinical Nurse Manager

Mick Kirk, Emergency Care Practitioner

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SCAS) has recruited five degree qualified
nurses to lead the expansion of the Trust's Clinical Support Desk (CSD)in its Bicester Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

Rebecca Douthwaite, Sam Mc Dowel, Julie Channon, Sian Jones and Sophie Groves will
work together with Emergency Care practitioners (ECP) on the Trust's Clinical Support Desk to provide complex clinical triage around the clock and throughout the year for people calling the 999 Emergency Ambulance Service.

They will also provide support for
staff within EOC and operational crews and Community First Responders who can call the CSD for help, advice and support. Four more nurses will join them in October and a further four whole time equivalent posts are currently being advertised.

The nurses have joined SCAS to supplement and work together with a dedicated team of
ECPs who have been working on the Trust's CSD for some time. Unlike ECPs (who
typically possess a degree in Paramedic Science and a second degree in Emergency
Care) and rotate shifts between working on the road and within EOC, the nurses will work exclusively within EOC enabling the Trust to provide callers with complex clinical triage twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year.

Sue Boyce, Clinical Nurse Manager for SCAS said:
'The focus of the nurses is to ensure our patients are clinically safe by talking to them on the telephone and making sure they get the most appropriate outcome according to clinical need and to improve quality of care for our patients by referring patients to alternative care
pathways where appropriate. For example dispatching an ECP to treat patients at home, or referring patients to their GP, Minor Injuries Unit, Pharmacist, or Walk-in Centres at Milton Keynes or High Wycombe, whilst ensuring those patients suffering life threatening medical emergencies get an ambulance response as quickly as possible.'

The nurses will also deal with frequent callers of the 999 medical emergency service by working in partnership with Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Primary Care Trusts (PCT) to ensure alternative care pathways and management plans are in place to support vulnerable people in the communities we serve. In addition they will contribute to the Trust's planning for pandemics and winter pressures such as adverse
weather and falls.

999 calls will be answered by an emergency call taker who will follow national guidelines to prioritise calls.

Where an ambulance is possibly not the most appropriate response for a patient the nurse will assess the patient following clinical guidelines and, if clinically safe to do so, the resource will be allocated to another incident.

With the annual cost of keeping a two person ambulance on the road estimated at
£480,000 and demand growing in excess of 5% per year the introduction of nurses to EOC forms a core strand of the Trust's demand management strategy. SCAS is working closely with Commissioners from the PCTs to reduce both non-emergency pressures on the local ambulance service and unnecessary hospital admissions.

Patients will benefit by being signposted to the most appropriate care for them and SCAS will benefit by releasing operational vehicles to respond to life-threatening emergencies.

Mick Kirk, SCAS Emergency Care Practitioner concluded:
'The introduction of degree qualified nurses to Bicester EOC provides a good opportunity
to develop the Clinical Support Desk to run twenty four hours seven days a week. I'm looking forward to working with the nurses, who will provide further support for patients, bring additional skills to the role and enhance clinical safety within the control room.'

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