THE Welsh Ambulance Service has revealed its action plan to protect patients and improve staff experience during the winter.
The Trust has been busy preparing for the expected seasonal increase in pressures, which impacts services across NHS Wales.
Last year’s winter demand has been analysed and a National Winter Plan has been created, along with seven localised plans for each health board area.
In total 20 new Emergency Medical Technicians, 12 new paramedics and 15 new members of Urgent Care Service crew will start work with the Trust.
An additional five ‘Hear and Treat’ clinicians will also be in place within Clinical Contact Centres from December to provide advice to callers who do not have serious or life threatening conditions.
Other initiatives include the training and deployment of Community First Responders to help non-injured fallers, and the placement of clinicians within police control rooms to triage calls and make sure appropriate resources are sent to the scene of incidents.
Richard Lee, Director of Operations, said: “During the winter we want to make sure that our patients receive the best clinical care possible and that our staff are working in a safe environment, during a period when services right across the NHS come under increased pressure.
“This year we will be entering the New Year with as full an establishment as the service has ever seen in terms of staffing.
“Managers are being freed up to spend more time with staff and patients on ambulances and plans are in place to increase support from St John Ambulance for low acuity calls and some private ambulance services at key points in the winter.”
One of the risks to the plan’s success is handover delays at hospitals, which have been taken into account and preparations put in place to mitigate them.
Richard Lee added: “We are working with the seven local health boards to provide Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officers to help with this and manage ambulances left waiting outside Emergency Departments.
“As part of improved escalation arrangements, local plans are being strengthened by agreeing the use of additional capacity vehicles, which will be used to safely hold patients outside Emergency Departments at times of extreme pressure and allow our ambulance crews to get back on the road.
“We also have in place a new demand management plan which lays out clear actions for control staff when demand exceeds supply.”
During the winter, while the number of 999 calls the Trust receives increases, the amount which are coded as life-threatening generally remains static.
Richard Lee called on members of the public to support the NHS Wales Choose Well campaign and consider other services unless they are facing a genuine emergency.
He said: “We need your help to make sure that we can attend to those in the community who need us most, such as patients experiencing a cardiac arrest or choking.
“Unless you are in need of urgent care, there are a whole host of alternative services available to you such as your GP, Out of Hours, pharmacies, minor injury units or you can call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 for health advice 24 hours a day.”