Military personnel are to join forces with North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) clinicians to support the response to some non-emergency patients in the North West region.
The challenge of COVID-19 and the rise in activity seen by NWAS has led to the partnership, which will see some patients whose need is not urgent attended to by an NWAS clinician and a member of the military, allowing the ambulance service to make more efficient use of its emergency resources.
Minor cases and patients needing hospital transfers and discharges can often have longer waits for an ambulance as more urgent, life-threatening cases take priority. Under the new arrangement, to come into force in early February, these patients could be seen quicker because of extra resources on the road.
Director of Operations, Ged Blezard comments: “As a trust which puts patient care at the heart of all we do, it is difficult to acknowledge that recent challenges have meant some of our patients are having to wait longer than they should. Our activity has substantially risen in recent months and whenever this happens, it is the less urgent cases which see the longest waits.
“This partnership with the military means we can have more of our vehicles on the road, getting people the treatment they need sooner. This in turn, frees up more resources to attend urgent, life-threatening cases. Each member of the military will pair up with an NWAS colleague and attend minor cases, hospital transfers and discharges only.”
The military personnel will receive NWAS training in driving ambulances, manual handling, kit familarisation and basic life support, similar to the standards of the trust’s patient transport staff who have also been supporting the emergency service throughout the pandemic. They will enable paramedics to accompany patients, whose condition is not deemed to be serious, in the backs of vehicles while being driven to or from hospitals.
Approximately 120 soldiers are expected to work alongside the ambulance service across the North West region. The first cohort will begin their training in the first week of February and will then be working with ambulance service staff in NWAS vehicles, although they will be identifiable due to their uniform.
Ged adds: “I have been astounded and very humbled by the way all of our staff have pulled together in the last 11 months, every person has worked extremely hard to ensure we can continue to respond to our patients and these new members of the team will be made to feel very welcome.
“As always, we are here for you in an emergency and you can assist us by using 111 online if you need urgent care advice and only dialling 999 in a life-threatening situation.”