A North East Ambulance Service pilot scheme to reduce the number of patients attending Sunderland’s A&E departments has proved so successful it has been extended.
The Paramedic Pathfinder has improved patient care and significantly reduced the load on Sunderland’s A&E departments by referring more than 1,000 patients to alternative care providers such as GPs, Urgent Care Centres, The Recovery at Home Team, The Palliative Care Team and The Emergency Ambulatory Care Unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
NEAS has now secured funding from the All Together Better Sunderland vanguard partnership to continue the scheme in Sunderland for another 12 months and is looking at ways to extend it further across the region.
Ambulance clinicians use the grounding-breaking clinical triage tool for patient assessments to help them make extremely accurate face-to-face patient assessments and confidently choose the most suitable place for treatment.
Libby Hodges, Unit Manager for Emergency Ambulatory Care at City Hospitals Sunderland, said: “We know paramedics have a huge amount of knowledge and experience, which they are now able to utilise much more by using their clinical judgement alongside the Pathfinder tool, making the whole process quicker, smoother and ultimately better for our patients.
“By allowing them direct access to our department, paramedics are able to bring patients straight to us for assessment, avoiding a wait in a busy A&E for the patient and taking the pressure off the emergency department.”
Paul Aitken Fell, Consultant Paramedic at NEAS, said: “Pathfinder isn’t a silver bullet but it’s definitely a start. The scheme is working particularly well in Sunderland where there’s a good choice of alternative care providers.
“Our ambulance clinicians will err on the side of caution when taking patients with non-critical conditions to A&E but Pathfinder is giving them the confidence and endorsement to choose another option and ensure patients get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”
Philip Foster, Chief Officer, Sunderland Care and Support and Chair of the All Together Better vanguard partnership said: “All Together Better Sunderland – the programme bringing health and social care services together for local residents – is funding this work to expand the Pathfinder scheme even further.
“The scheme provides a seamless link to a range of services available in the community to paramedic clinicians, as an alternative to taking a patient to the Accident and Emergency Department. These Out of Hospital services include the 24/7 Recovery at Home a service that offers short term specialist support for patients and the Community integrated Health and Social Care teams focused on enabling the patient to be treated and supported in the community if they do not need to be in hospital.
“Using the Pathfinder scheme, NEAS and All Together Better Sunderland can increase safe care, closer to home and avoid unnecessary admission into hospital”