Mobile treatment centre is a UK first

3. MobileTreatmentCentre1South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has taken delivery of a new purpose-built mobile treatment centre. The treatment centre will go straight into operation providing an alcohol recovery facility in Bristol starting on Thursday 18 December 2014.

The alcohol recovery centre (ARC) is a place of safety where emergency care assistants, paramedics and emergency care practitioners can assess and monitor patients who have become vulnerable due to an excess of alcohol, without the need for a visit to the hospital emergency department. It is a multi-agency partnership between South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Bristol City Council, NHS Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group, and National Licensed Trade Association (NLTA).

SWASFT Chief Executive, Ken Wenman, said, “It is absolutely vital that we are able to provide patients with the right care, in the right place, at the right time. Every one of our patients deserves the very best care and that does not always mean a trip to a hospital emergency department.

“Current demand for ambulance services and the NHS as a whole means we must manage patients in the right way. This new mobile treatment centre will allow us the flexibility to take the excellent care our staff provide to where it is needed.”

The scheme has been made possible with £500,000 funding from the National Licensed Trade Association (NLTA) with money raised from another of its initiatives – Barcode. Barcode is at the heart of the NLTA, a not for profit organisation formed to raise awareness of alcohol consumption and retailing. Barcode itself is a member-driven training programme, which aims to redefine the way we think about alcohol by delivering a national standard of competence within the drinks industry.

Additional support from Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has enabled the trust to staff the vehicle with SWASFT clinicians.

The mobile treatment centre will be in operation as an ARC in central Bristol across the festive period. Patients will be assessed over the telephone by a clinician in the ambulance control room or face-to-face by ambulance staff and, if appropriate, they will then be collected and taken to the recovery centre. This releases the ambulance crew and any police officers also at the scene so they can attend higher priority 999 calls, while also maximising available beds within the emergency department.

An ARC, which was based at a healthcare facility in central Bristol, ran for five nights during December 2013 and January 2014 and saw 46 patients, with only four of these needing to be conveyed to the emergency department.

Patients will be given a full assessment by a paramedic on arrival at the ARC to ensure they don’t have any other symptoms or injuries that needed treatment. Then, under the supervision of the ambulance staff, they will be able to sleep off the alcohol, drink water and warm up before being collected by friends or relatives or being sober enough to safely make their own way home.

Pete Brown, SWASFT Resilience Officer, said, “This new mobile treatment centre will allow us to provide a better service to the public through joint working with our partners; not only for the patients who are cared for at the centre but for anyone else who needs the services of the ambulance, police or hospital.

“While the new vehicle will see its first outing as an ARC, having a purpose-built mobile treatment centre will allow us to use it throughout the year. SWASFT covers a very large area and there are many events across our patch which will benefit from this facility.”

SWASFT is the first ambulance service to have such a purpose-built vehicle of this kind. It has treatment areas for up to eight patients at any one time, a reception and patient waiting area, toilets and showers and infection control and cleansing and staff welfare facilities.

Ken Wenman added, “The ambulance service has become the mobile arm of the NHS and as such, we must be responsive to the needs of our patients. While calling 999 for life-threatening emergencies is absolutely the right thing to do, and those patients will always need to be conveyed to emergency departments, we know that many others call with more minor complaints and it is important that we are able to care for them while making sure emergency ambulances and hospital beds are available for those most in need.”

Andy Bishop, MD, NLTA, said, “We are delighted to be involved with this pioneering national scheme that will have a profound effect on the licensed trade and in turn reduce the pressure of anti-social drinking on the emergency services.”