The heads of the ambulance services expect an increase in COVID-19 over the winter to increase pressure on the NHS and exacerbate problems with ambulance delivery delays.
Northeast Ambulance Service (NEAS) has submitted its winter plan to its board, and the plan presents a stern warning about how the so-called “twendemia” The start of a bad flu season coupled with the continued spread of Covid-19 could add to the stress on a health service that is already under pressure. However, despite the warnings, NEAS has laid out a series of measures to help cope with what is anticipated to be a difficult few months and says it has a “robust” plan.
These include increasing ambulance capacity by increasing the number of “third party” vehicles being used to increase the number of ambulances on the road, increasing overtime, and increasing the number of call operators and health advisors available to help. to the public.
The report to the NEAS board, presented by chief operating officer Stephen Segasby, said: “Current high levels of demand for services, increased patient acuity and delays in hospital transfers are anticipated to be exacerbated by a resurgence of COVID-19 and seasonal respiratory viruses.” including the flu.
This comes as the latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency show that the North East has the highest rate of Covid-19 hospital admissions in the country, although the national figure is currently falling.
NEAS reports that a “Winter Surge Management Task Force” has been set up to ensure services run smoothly through the winter and identify risks as they arise. The report also highlights the period between December 16 and January 3 as one of the main concerns.
The plan to deal with the anticipated pressure also includes working to speed up response times to Category 2 incidents – “a serious condition, such as a stroke or chest pain” – and minimizing time lost to delays in ambulance delivery outside hospitals. NEAS said it was going to launch an initiative in Sunderland called “fit to sit” to limit the number of people in pushchairs, and this could be expanded across the region.
NEAS has also submitted a bit for the funding of National Health Service commissioned for at least six new patient transport vehicles, to help with hospital discharges. A joint event with NHS trusts across the region will be held in November to explore ways to improve hospital handovers.
This comes as the last NEAS board meeting received a report showing that in September, the average time for a delivery was 26 minutes and 22 seconds. The goal is 15 minutes.
Earlier this fall at the NEAS Annual General Meeting, NEAS Executive Director Helen Ray spoke about winter fears. Referring to the cost of energy and responding to a question about how the ambulance service would take care of the most vulnerable this winter, he said: “We absolutely 100% agree and we are concerned about this. We are concerned about the general population and the financial pressures. that are brought And we’re very concerned that people won’t turn on the heat and hypothermia and other things might come to the fore.”
She said the Trust’s winter plan was “very robust” and subject to checks and balances in the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, adding: “We don’t have a silver bullet, but we do have some really good plans. “. so that we recognize it and can prevent people and communities from suffering.