New urgent care pilot grows from Sunderland trial success

New team aims to improve patient care

A new project which aims to map out urgent care pathways across the North East launched this week.

The Urgent Care Pathway Development Project has grown from the success of North East Ambulance Service’s Paramedic Pathfinder trial, which has helped more than 2,000 patients avoid lengthy A&E delays since its launch in September 2016 by successfully referring to alternative care providers such as GPs, urgent care centres and the Recovery at Home team.

Paramedic Pathfinder trained North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) clinicians to use a ground-breaking clinical triage tool to help choose the most appropriate place for treatment and reduce avoidable admissions to hospital through emergency departments.

Now, following its success, NEAS has developed the Urgent Care Pathway Development Project to map out urgent care pathways, such as GPs, out of hours providers, minor injury units, treatment centres and pharmacies, across more areas in the region.

Three paramedics, Iain Lawson, Sam Birchall and Emma Stanton, have joined project manager Mike Simpson, who ran the Pathfinder trial, on a one-year secondment to see the project through.

With more than 50 years’ combined clinical experience, together they will run a seven-day service on a rota basis, liaising with the region’s care providers and clinical commissioning groups to discuss current and new care pathways whilst also training more NEAS clinicians to use the triage tool.

Iain, who joined NEAS 19 years ago and has been a qualified paramedic for 15, said: “This innovative project will change the way we work as a service whilst providing even better care for patients and that’s a really exciting opportunity to be part of.”

Sam, who has been a qualified paramedic for eight years having joined NEAS 17 years ago, added: “I was ready for a new challenge and I think this project offers just that. It can be quite frustrating for clinicians when we know there is somewhere more appropriate for a patient than the Emergency Department so being able to affect change and improve services for my colleagues as well as the patients we serve is something I’m really looking forward to.”

Emma, who relocated back to her home region three years ago after qualifying as a paramedic eight years ago with another ambulance service, is currently studying a masters in urgent care with NEAS, which she hopes will complement this new project.

“The needs of patients are changing so it’s vital that we change the pathways we use for patients to suit these needs,” she said. “It’s an exciting project to be part of and because we’ll still be operational, we’ll be using the pathways that we help develop whilst working closely with our colleagues to help us implement them and answer any queries they have out on the road.”

Specialist paramedic Mike Simpson, who is leading the team, said: “Ambulance services are now a key provider of urgent as well as emergency care, and our workforce, pathways and clinical support are adapting to meet these challenges. Many of the patients that call 999 for an ambulance can be managed safely and effectively within a community or none emergency department setting.

“By building on the success of the Sunderland pilot, our aim is to offer alternative pathways to all of our operational staff and one of the key aspects of our work will be to seek feedback from them to understand the challenges they currently face in making referrals.

“By working in partnership with new and existing care providers and commissioners, we can identify services suitable for our clinicians to make direct referrals, thereby reducing the strain on our emergency departments, whilst improving patient experience by offering more personalised care.”

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