The region’s NHS ambulance service is today (Monday, November 5) launching an online campaign to educate people on how 999 calls are handled and prioritised.
The Right Call campaign will focus on how the ambulance service makes the right call for all its patients by correctly assessing and grading each one for the right response time.
This is so crews can get to patients with life-threatening conditions first so they aren’t put at risk.
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) campaign will also prompt patients to ask themselves if they are making the right call in dialling 999.
While the trust deals with a variety of calls, 999 is really designed for people in potentially life threatening conditions or who need intensive clinical intervention en route to hospital and anyone who does not fall into these categories is asked to think about the possibility of more suitable alternative transport to A&E so an ambulance is not tied up unnecessarily when a call comes in for someone whose life is in danger.
Two brand new helpful guides have been written for the public about using 999 to help manage their expectations and set out how and why ambulance services across the country deal with calls in different ways so that they can make the best use of finite resources in the best interests of patients.
One is a combined FAQ and mythbuster and the other is an easy to understand flow chart about how a 999 call is dealt with.
These will both be on the special Right Call page which is revealed today on the trust’s website www.eastamb.nhs.uk.
In addition nine tweets marked #rightcall over the next nine days will cover nine different elements of the public education campaign.
While the advice is not new it is the first time the trust has launched the guides and the online campaign which came about after it became clear there was a need to educate people about the service they could expect for different types of calls.
Because of the publicity surrounding the eight minute target a common misconception is that this applied to all calls when it only relates to patients in life-threatening conditions – who make up just a fifth of the total 999 calls the trust receives.
So the lives of those patients are not put at risk other calls nationally are graded for different response times ranging from 20 minutes to an hour and the most minor ones where patients can get to A&E without an ambulance or see a doctor, walk in centre or pharmacist, will receive telephone advice.
This system of prioritisation, like the one used in A&E departments, has been in place for a number of years and each grading follows an in depth clinical evaluation by a highly trained call handler using an internationally accredited system to make sure the assessment of the condition is correct.
A broken arm or leg for example or another non life-threatening injury is graded for a 30 minute response target which applies to all ambulance services in the country.
Patients should still ask themselves however whether they require immediate life-saving treatment or intense clinical supervision en route to hospital and if not whether they can get to A&E without the need for an ambulance.
Another common misconception is that patients will be seen quicker if they arrive by ambulance but this is not true and it is one of the myths busted by the campaign publications.
Trust director of operations Neil Storey said: “Our staff deal with thousands of calls each week, but for one person it might be the only 999 call they make in their lifetime.
“We want to make it clear to them about what to expect, why a call is being handled in a certain way, and to even think about alternatives to 999.
“Some people feel that the ambulance service hasn’t worked for them in the way they expected – everyone’s needs are different and we address that where we can, but the ambulance service has to work with finite resources and within certain parameters to ensure help is given how and when it is needed.
“So it’s with the support of the public and education around what we do that will help us provide the care and provision we want to.”
For all the latest news see Thursday’s (November 15) Echo.