Pioneering ‘talk before you walk’ technology connects paramedics and hospital consultants
A health technology communications service connecting paramedics to consultants and same-day emergency care (SDEC) specialists is easing the strain on NHS accident and emergency departments.
Consultant Connect is being used by two in three UK ambulance trusts in areas including the West Midlands, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and South East London; Tayside and Lanarkshire in Scotland; and the whole of Wales.
Once paramedics have seen patients, they can speak to medics in units including SDEC, frailty, GP out-of-hours, and acute medicine.
The advice and guidance service – dubbed ‘talk before you walk’ – helps smooth patient flow through the healthcare system.
Consultant Connect also helps paramedics quickly contact the pre alert team which allows A&E – or another clinical area – to prepare appropriately.
More than 93,000 calls were placed by paramedics to consultants between January and June last year, with calls answered in under 12 seconds, on average.
One in three of those calls resulted in the patient avoiding an unnecessary hospital visit, releasing capacity on A&E wards.
And patients who were admitted to hospital often avoided A&E by being conveyed directly to the right department because of the consultant’s advice.
Professional-to-professional systems like Consultant Connect make it possible for paramedics to receive specialist advice while they are with the patient – helping them to receive better care and saving hospitals vital capacity
SDEC was launched by the NHS in May 2021 to treat patients who need hospital care, but do not need to stay overnight, thereby reducing pressure on A&E wards.
Consultant Connect now provides 20 NHS areas with a fast and streamlined communications route to SDEC units.
Consultant Connect’s SDEC line had three times the number of calls last June as in the same month in 2021.
Nearly half of those calls resulted in the patient avoiding A&E when they otherwise would have been admitted.
Jonathan Will, a paramedic and national improvement advisor for NHS Scotland, said: “Historically, paramedics had two options when arriving to see a patient; to see, treat, and discharge a patient on the scene, or take them to hospital.
“Professional-to-professional systems like Consultant Connect make it possible for paramedics to receive specialist advice while they are with the patient – helping them to receive better care and saving hospitals vital capacity.”
Dr Roshan Navin, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust’s clinical lead for acute medicine and SDEC, added: “It has reduced unnecessary delays due to the rapid access to senior expert specialists.
We can’t solve the crisis in A&E, but we can play our part in easing the pressures
“The specialist advice also results in patients being treated out of hospital where appropriate.”
And Jonathan Patrick, chief executive of Consultant Connect, said: “Patients taken to hospital by ambulance crews often end up queuing to get into overrun A&E departments and the knock-on effect of ambulances being held up is a lack of ambulances for other patients who have called 999.
“Our service helps patients to get the care they need without going to hospital, if it’s possible.
“Consultant Connect also acts as a triaging service, meaning patients can bypass the queue at A&E and go straight to SDEC or another appropriate ward.
“We can’t solve the crisis in A&E, but we can play our part in easing the pressures.”