At the start of July, a Joint Response Unit (JRU) was launched after it was found that between October 2015 and March 2016, the two emergency services attended 2249 incidents together.
Under the new pilot scheme, a Paramedic and a Special Constable in a specially marked Land Rover carry out shifts covering the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area, self-selecting appropriate 999 incidents via remote access to calls coming into local control rooms.
During its first month, members of the response unit attended 72 incidents and only required back up from an emergency ambulance on 15 occasions, while the trust’s Urgent Care Service also provided support five times. This enabled ambulance crews who would normally have attended to respond to members of the public facing potentially life-threatening emergencies elsewhere in the region.
It also meant that police officers at the scene were freed up to move on to other cases by not having to wait for an ambulance to be allocated, and receiving support from a Special Constable.
Explaining the typical type of incident that the unit responds to and how they are allocated, Chris Hughes, Joint Response Unit Project Lead at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said, “All of the police’s workload is passed through the radio so, for example, say if they were asking any units to attend a car accident in Blackwood then our ears prick up and we can start making our way.
“We attend lots of RTCs as we have the information live and what we’re doing is updating both the ambulance and police control rooms, so they already have the job open from us and know they’ve already got someone en route.
“It’s good for us as we’ve got the Special Constable there who can man the police radio, who knows the terminology, and can help us to communicate with police officers at the scene of incidents.”
Chris, who leads and is part of a team of four paramedics with the unit, decided to pursue the initiative after witnessing a similar operation involving London Ambulance Service, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police.
Currently the Gwent JRU works three 12-hour shifts per week on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when the emergency services often experience their highest demand.
Chris said, “We would normally have run 72 emergency ambulances to those incidents in July, but as a result only 15 were needed, so 57 emergency ambulances over 14 shifts were left available for the community in order to attend medical emergencies.
“The police are noticing a reduction in lost hours on scene, so we’re freeing up police officers who are in high demand on the weekend. They might only be waiting 10 minutes for us so when we get there, as long as the scene is safe and secure to work in, the police officers can leave there and go to other incidents leaving myself and the special officer at the scene so they still have a police presence. They will obviously stay if there was a concern for our safety or for somebody to go to custody.
“It’s not the particular job we’re going to, but the availability we’re freeing up for the police and ambulance services.”
Chief Inspector Nick McLain from Gwent Police said, “Partnership working is at the cornerstone of everything we do and allows us to provide an enhanced service to people in need. On completion of this pilot, we will be in a position to evaluate the impact of this project, to ensure we are providing value for money and improving the satisfaction and confidence of the communities we serve.”
Once the pilot is completed, at the start of October, its success will then be evaluated.