A volunteering initiative led by North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) has received a national Helpforce Champions Award after saving hundreds of hours of ambulance time by getting patients in less serious conditions the right care more quickly.
Since the pilot project launched in April 2022, trained community first responders (CFRs) for NWAS have been responding to less urgent emergency calls with support from a dedicated clinician based in the control centre.
The clinician reviews 999 calls that have been categorised as being ‘low acuity’ to identify incidents that may be appropriate for a volunteer to attend. Once on scene, the CFR assesses the patient and contacts the clinician to provide their observations. The clinician then determines if the situation still requires an ambulance, or if it may be feasible for the patient to use a more appropriate route to care, such as visiting a GP, an urgent treatment centre, or making their own way to the emergency department. In some instances, if the incident is more severe than first anticipated, the clinician can advise that the call category be upgraded.
This means that patients can get the right care more quickly, and ambulances are kept free for immediate life-threatening emergencies.
Evaluation of the first phase of the pilot, which ran from April to October 2022, showed that 77% of the CFR assigned calls did not require an emergency ambulance response, which freed up 469 hours of ambulance time.
The project won the ‘Impact Project of the Year’ category of the Helpforce Champions Awards, in London last month.
Interim Regional Community Engagement Lead Mark Evans, who managed the pilot, said, “We are delighted to have won this award, and it’s a brilliant team effort. More than one hundred volunteers have been used in the initial pilot. We can really see the project making a difference, allowing us to use our resources better and ultimately providing patients the right care at the right time.
A CPAD is a special cabinet on the outside wall of a building containing an automated external defibrillator which can be accessible 24/7 to anyone in the vicinity who requires it. It means that members of the public without medical training can provide life-saving intervention in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest before an ambulance arrives, giving the patient a better chance of survival when every second counts.
Helpforce partners with health and care organisations across the UK to accelerate the growth and impact of volunteering and their Helpforce Champions Awards are a chance to shine a light on those who give their time to help staff in the health and care sector, and support patients and their families and carers.