A recent report conducted by NHS Improvement has highlighted major inefficiencies within the UK’s ambulance service. The reports states that these inefficiencies are likely to worsen if the issues are not addressed, as the demand for ambulances continues to soar.
There are currently only 10 ambulance services in the UK, which is partly why ambulances are feeling the strain on resources. However, educating people about how to use ambulances in the right way, will help to alleviate the pressure that ambulances currently face.
Addressing the issues with Britain’s ambulances
The NHS Improvement review, conducted by Lord Carter, found several issues that are affecting England’s ambulances. These include:
- 1 in 4 ambulances are over 7 years old, the age at which the reliability of vehicle function begins to deteriorate and annual maintenance costs start to rise
- only 32 different types of ambulances are utilised by ambulance services
- use of digital technology to access patient records is still in its early stages, evidencing out-dated practices
- the ambulance service has the highest rate of sickness within the NHS, with 20 days per employee
With a budget of £2.3 billion and 8.3 million callouts per year, it is clear that the current number of ambulances within the UK’s fleet cannot meet the demand, which could be harmful for those truly in need of ambulances and their services.
While it is clear that improvements can be made within the ambulance services, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives asserted that issues such as patient demographic and geographical location have an impact on the use of ambulances.
They also stated that other NHS services could better support the work of ambulances, such as GP surgeries extending their opening hours in order to see non-medical emergency patients who would otherwise be misusing ambulances.
In fact, there are several alternative services to ambulances that individuals can use for non-emergency medical advice, which they might not be aware of. Being informed about these alternatives will ensure that ambulances are being used in the right way in the future.
Knowing when to call an ambulance
In medical situations, many people simply panic and call an ambulance because they believe that is the quickest way to get the help they need. However, this is not necessarily the case. The NHS states that ambulances should only be sent out to medical emergencies, including life-saving scenarios such as:
- chest pains
- breathing difficulties
- severe and heavy bleeding
- loss of consciousness
- confusion or dizziness sustained from head injury
- unstoppable fitting
- severe burns, scalds and allergic reactions
- traffic accidents, stabbings and shootings
- an individual displaying signs of having a stroke or heart attack
Some people are under the impression that using ambulances for non-emergency medical situations will reduce their waiting time at A&E; however, this is not the case. Every individual admitted to hospital undergoes an assessment, and patients are then placed in priority order. Lord Carter, the NHS expert in productivity who conducted the review, suggested that people need to be reminded that ambulances are not A&E taxi services.
Alternatives to calling an ambulance
While ambulances are the first port of call for many individuals facing medical issues, it’s important to undertake a swift self-assessment and to consider seeking another means of medical aid. This will help to alleviate some of the strain on ambulance resources.
In cases of minor injury, a friend or relative driving a patient to a hospital or local minor injuries clinic would be a suitable alternative to ambulances. Other options for non-threatening medical emergencies include:
- calling NHS 111
- talking to a local pharmacist
- visiting a GP walk-in clinic
- calling an out-of-hours GP service
- attending a local urgent care clinic
- in minor cases, self-care
Earlier this year, the government provided £36.3 million in funding towards 256 new ambulances; however, this is not an excuse to use ambulances unnecessarily. The alternative solutions available to individuals are adequate options to use instead of ambulances, which will help to conserve ambulance resources for the future.
If you are ever in need of out-of-hours services relating to your medical situation, or want to find out about your alternatives to using ambulances, please have a look around our website.