Gearing up for winter

How NEAS is preparing for winter demand

Winter is always the busiest time of year for NEAS.

The key theme of our winter resilience schemes this year is to maximise the provision of patient care in the home environment, or schemes which can manage our demand differently, to avoid patients having to attend or be taken to an Emergency Department, wherever clinically appropriate to do so. Another key theme running through our schemes is the enhancement of our operational efficiency.

Some of the key initiatives in place this winter include:

  • The introduction of Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officers (HALOs) who will be deployed to specific Emergency Departments to assist with patient handover and ambulance turnaround times.  The HALO role will also regularly communicate with Ambulance crews to encourage the use of any alternative care pathways in the area.
  • The implementation of the ‘Flight Deck’ in our Control Centre. Working in partnership with the  NHS North of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECS) we will collate SitReps from Acute providers throughout the day to support a Flight Desk Supervisor to make real-time decisions about capacity and demand of the North East Emergency Care system, such as which hospital to discuss activation of diverts, where to mobilise the HALO etc.
  • Additional patient transport vehicles and crews have been implemented  to support  the rapid, safe and effective transport of patients, either home, or to another care location, ensuring bed blocks are reduced and patient flow and experience is improved and to support PTS activity in general.
  • Additional resources supporting our Emergency Care service are also available to NEAS in the form of third party agencies, such as The Great North Air Ambulance, Mountain Rescue Teams, the RNLI, and St John Ambulance Service.

In the event of any peaks of unprecedented demand, independent ambulance service providers may also be used if all other options have been exhausted.

Additional vehicles will also be available to complement the growing 4x4 fleet.

A public campaign organised by the NHS will run from December 22, encouraging the public to call 111 rather than 999 during the Christmas and New Year weeks if their ailment is relatively minor.

If demand is exceptionally heavy, the Patient Transport Service may also be asked to provide appropriately trained staff to support emergency care colleagues.

Ambulance Resource Assistants also ensure equipment and consumables are re-stocked at hospitals and operational stations, reducing the need for crews to travel back to core sites.

NEAS is also involved in a pilot to test technology which provides virtual consultations between paramedics, patients, GPs and A&E consultants.

Winter equipment has been issued across the fleet and all relevant vehicles will be fitted with special winter tyres.

All ambulances, PTS and Rapid Response Vehicles will undergo regular safety inspections and, where possible, services and repairs will take place before the Christmas period to maximise the resource.

In line with NHS organisations nationally, we also provide free flu vaccinations to all our staff.

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