Case study

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Reducing unnecessary attendance at hospital emergency departments by improving care out of hospital

Better use of Ambulance services leads to a reduction in costs to the NHS

A programme of work by Professor Helen Snooks and her research team at Swansea University has reduced the number of people being taken to Emergency Departments (ED) by ambulance.  A review led by Snooks reported that 40% of calls to emergency health services world-wide did not need an ambulance as they were not life-threatening nor serious.

In collaboration with ambulance service providers, policy makers and academics, the research team have identified safe alternatives for transport to emergency departments, such as providing nurse advice over the phone or referral to non-emergency health services.  In 2012-13 over 360,000 emergency calls in England were resolved through telephone advice, avoiding ambulance dispatch. As new models of ambulance service care are introduced in the UK and internationally in response to Professor Snooks’ research, the proportion of emergency calls resulting in patient transport to hospital has fallen. In England, this fell from 68% in 2007-8 to 55% in 2012-3, with estimated cost savings from avoided ambulance journeys alone of £24 million.

“Snooks’ studies, at the forefront of pre-hospital research, have significantly influenced the development of new models of ambulance service care.” Associate Clinical Director, East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust

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