Ambulance service trials new role to give patients the right care closer to home

A new role focused on providing patients with the right care closer to home is being piloted at North West Ambulance Service.

The Urgent Care Practitioners are nurses and paramedics who respond to patients who have called 999 but do not need an emergency ambulance and could possibly receive support and treatment at home, rather than having to go to hospital. While nurses have been part of the ambulance workforce for a number of years, it is the first time they will be employed in NWAS in a role responding to patients.

With vehicles equipped to treat people on scene, the Urgent Care Practitioners will do all they can to ensure the patient has the help they need, referring on to other local health services if required.

This is positive for patients, who will be avoiding unnecessary trips to A&E, and it will help to keep emergency ambulances free to respond quickly to life-threatening incidents. The Urgent Care Practitioners will also spend some of their time working within the control centre. In this part of the role, if it is safe to do so, the Urgent Care Practitioners will use their clinical expertise to give patients care and advice over the telephone or make onward referrals.

David Ratcliffe, Medical Director at NWAS, said, “We are continuously developing our services to make sure we’re providing the best care for patients. A large proportion of the 999 calls we receive are for patients who do need support but don’t necessarily need an emergency ambulance to take them to hospital. It is these patients who the Urgent Care Practitioners will respond to.

“This pilot is an exciting opportunity to bring new nursing skills to our frontline workforce and use existing paramedic expertise to focus on helping people as close to home as possible. We’ll work closely with other health services in the local area to make sure patients get the right care for their needs, at the right time and in the right place.”

Jason Mulrooney, a nurse taking on the new Urgent Care Practitioner role, said, “I’ve worked for the ambulance service for three years supporting patients over the telephone so this is a great opportunity to be out seeing patients and giving face-to-face assessments. With our existing skills and experience, and the additional training we’ve been given by the ambulance service, we’re perfectly placed to give patients the care and support they need. We see ourselves as trailblazers, being one of the few ambulance services in the UK to provide such a service.”

The six-month pilot is part of NWAS’ Transforming Patient Care programme, which incorporates a number of service developments and initiatives focused on ensuring patients get the right care, at the right time, in the right place; every time.