Using NHS Pathways

Call takerFrequently Asked Questions

Demand on NHS services is increasing every year and more and more people are calling the ambulance service. As a result, our systems have developed to assess emergency and clinical needs to direct patients to the right care in the right place at the right time.

We are seeing changes in the type of emergency calls we receive. Many calls relate to minor conditions or long-term conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other respiratory conditions.

Often these calls can be better managed in the community or by other providers other than A&E departments. Our systems can better support us in directing patients to the right service, the first time.

It also provides our paramedics or nurses in the contact centres with more information about the patient, if following the initial assessment, their call is passed on to our clinical desk in the control centre to provide homecare advice.

  • What is NHS Pathways?

    NHS Pathways is a system developed by the NHS which is used to identify the best service and how quickly a patient needs to be treated, based on their symptoms. This may mean answering a few more questions than previously. All questions asked need to be answered as they are used to ensure you are directed to the right service to meet your needs. Types of service may include, an ambulance response, advice to contact your own GP or the out of hours service, visit the local minor injury unit or walk in centre or home care.

  • What is the directory of services?

    Once the appropriate type of service has been identified - so that you can be directed to a service which is available to treat you - the system is linked to a directory of service. This directory contains details of the services available, their opening times and what conditions and symptoms they can manage, within your area.

  • How does the directory of services link with NHS Pathways?

    The answers you give to the questions the call handler asks are used by the directory to identify the best service to treat you in your area, to make sure you access the right service, first time.

  • How is NHS Pathways different?

    NHS Pathways uses the patient's symptoms to make an assessment, which is then used to identify an appropriate type of service for the patient to meet their need. This is in contrast to what other ambulance services' use, which is designed to support assessment up to the point where a vehicle is dispatched in a timely manner. The North East was the first ambulance trust to use NHS Pathways in October 2006 and other ambulance services are now introducing this system into their contact centres.

  • Why do I have to answer lots of questions during my call?

    NHS Pathways uses at least three seperate pieces of clinical evidence to assess a patient's symptoms and needs. The answers to these questions asked are used to identify the most appropriate type of service to meet your need. However these questions will not cause any delay in ambulances reaching emergencies and life-threatening situations.

  • What training do NHS Pathways call handlers receive?

    All our call handlers undergo a six-week training programme on the clinical content and telephone use. Before a call handler is allowed to answer a call, they have undertaken at least 60 hours of classroom tuition, passed assessments to the required level, plus at least four weeks of supervised use and a further review period to assess performance during live use. Routine clinical audit of calls are performed with direct feedback given to the individual to further improve the quality of the service provided.

  • Where can I find out more about NHS Pathways?

    For further information about NHS Pathways, visit the NHS Pathways website.

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