Who calls 999 and why? A survey of the emergency workload of the London Ambulance Service.
BACKGROUND: In 1996-97 there were 623,000 emergency (999) calls made to the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and this represents a 30% increase over the previous five years. The reasons for this increase, which is also observed nationally, remain unknown. It has been suggested that some callers may be using the 999 service "inappropriately" but no data are available from the ambulance service. OBJECTIVE: To describe the workload of the emergency ambulance service in London with specific reference to the nature and characteristics of 999 calls, to determine who dials 999 and why, and to establish the number and types of calls that could most appropriately be dealt with by other agencies. DESIGN: A one week census of all emergency calls responded to by the LAS. SETTING: Sixty eight LAS stations. METHODS: Collation of all routine LAS incident forms (LA4) including the classification of the crews' free text description of the incident. This was supplemented by a detailed workload questionnaire for 25% of calls. RESULTS: There were 10,921 calls responded to from 29 April to 5 May 1996. The census showed that the daily number of calls was highest on Saturday and lowest on Wednesday with about half being made during normal general practitioner (GP) working hours. Half of all calls were for women and one third were for people aged > or = 65. Accidents were the commonest type of incident (24%). The remainder comprised various medical conditions such as respiratory, cardiac, and obstetric problems. In 1.5% of calls there was no illness, injury, or assistance required and 5% were for "general assistance" and mostly concerned people aged > or = 65. The workload survey indicated that two thirds of incidents occurred at home and 70% of callers had not tried to contact a GP before dialing 999. In the professional opinion of the responding crew, 60% of calls required a 999 response, with the remainder thought more appropriately dealt with by other services such as primary care, psychiatric services, and social services. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that while the majority of 999 calls were "appropriate", part of the 999 workload could be dealt with by other services. More research is required to clarify why people contact the 999 service for non-emergency incidents and also to establish the views of GPs and other agencies as to the role and function of the IAS. (+info)
Study of early warning of accident and emergency departments by ambulance services.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the warning time given to accident and emergency (A&E) departments by the ambulance service before arrival of a critically ill or injured patient. To determine if this could be increased by ambulance personnel alerting within five minutes of arrival at scene. METHODS: Use of computerised ambulance control room data to find key times in process of attending a critically ill or injured patient. Modelling was undertaken with a scenario of the first responder alerting the A&E department five minutes after arrival on scene. RESULTS: The average alert warning time was 7 min (range 1-15 min). Mean time on scene was 22 min (range 4-59 min). In trauma patients alone, the average alert time was 7 min, range 2-15 min, with an average on scene time of 23 min, range 4-53 min. There was a potential earlier alert time averaging 25 min (SD 18.6, range 2-59 min) if the alert call was made five minutes after arrival on scene. CONCLUSIONS: A&E departments could be alerted much earlier by the ambulance service. This would allow staff to be assembled and preparations to be made. Disadvantages may be an increased "alert rate" and wastage of staff time while waiting the ambulance arrival. (+info)
Blue calls--time for a change?
Prior alert via a landline telephone ("blue call") is commonly used to warn accident and emergency (A&E) departments of the impending arrival of a seriously ill or injured patient. There are no published indications for making such calls or validated protocols on message content. Submitted telephone information has the potential for distortion as it is passed through the control centre resulting in inappropriate resource allocation. This study focuses on the quality and content of the message in the context of the available patient details as well as reviewing the clinical indications for the call. Data were collected on patients for whom "blue calls" were made to an A&E department over three months of 1998. Patients with life threatening conditions who were brought by non-blue light ambulance were identified during the same period. Similar details were collected on these critical patients. Of the 189 "blue calls" with complete details, 73% were admitted, (12% to ITU) and 18% died. Sixty nine per cent of cases were medical, 26% trauma and 5% obstetric. Pre-hospital observations were missing for 25% of patients (excluding patients in cardiac arrest), suggesting that the decisions to make a pre-alert call may have been based on subjective criteria in a significant minority. Information given over the telephone invariably included age, sex and presenting complaint but details of the current condition of the patient were included in only 11%. On reviewing pre-hospital information, a consultant in A&E and an ambulance paramedic judged that a prior alert was justified in 93% but additional information would be helpful in 52% of cases to correctly mobilise resources. Seventy five "clinically critical" patients were found in the three months of the study. Clinically critical patients were patients who had no prior alert, transported by ambulance, who were subsequently admitted to intensive care, theatre, or other high dependency areas. They included 27 patients with symptoms of a myocardial infarction. These patients may have benefited from prior alert. A protocol is suggested to provide criteria for making a prior alert to the A&E department via a landline connection. A standardised message structure would be used using vital signs and mechanism of injury or type of illness to assist in hospital preparation. (+info)
An analysis of calls referred to the emergency 999 service by NHS Direct.
INTRODUCTION: NHS Direct was launched in West Yorkshire in April 1999. A 999 ambulance can be dispatched to the patient as a result of a call to NHS Direct. The aim of this study is to compare cases that had been referred by NHS Direct via the 999 service, with those who had dialled 999 themselves. METHODS: The study was carried out in three accident and emergency (A&E) departments in West Yorkshire, between 1 April 1999 and 21 August 1999. NHS Direct generated 999 calls were identified. The comparison group was selected at random from a list of all other 999 cases attending the three departments. The study involved retrieving basic demographic data, as well as duration of symptoms before dialling 999, triage category on arrival in A&E and disposal of patient. Ethical approval and statistical advice were obtained. RESULTS: 91 NHS Direct generated 999 calls were identified. Of the comparison group (260 cases), 28 were excluded from the study. There were no differences in the triage categories assigned to the two groups on arrival in A&E. There were notable differences in presenting complaint between the two groups and in particular, trauma was less common among the NHS Direct patients (6.6%) compared with those who had self dialled (37.5%). Patients who had first called NHS Direct were younger (p=0.033) and had endured their symptoms for longer (p<0.001); they were less likely to be admitted, and if discharged, were less likely to have follow up arranged (p=0.014). CONCLUSIONS: Both groups received similar triage categories suggesting that severity of illness is equally well assessed by self as by NHS Direct. There are large differences in case mix between the two groups studied and these almost certainly explain the differences in outcome. (+info)
Transporting the incubator: effects upon a region of the adoption of guidelines for high-risk maternal transport.
OBJECTIVE: To inventory maternal transport practices and develop regional transport guidelines. STUDY DESIGN: A survey was administered to perinatal nursing directors of nine community hospitals in a rural region of Virginia. Items included personnel, training, equipment, vehicle, communication, and protocols. Following the survey, regional guidelines were developed using a collaborative process. Their use was promoted in the region. A post-intervention survey documented changes in transport practices. RESULTS: The pre-intervention survey showed wide variability in training and number of personnel and in availability of emergency equipment. Communication was via radio to a dispatcher. No hospital had standing orders or protocols for transport. Guidelines were developed, which included recommendations for personnel, equipment, vehicle, communication methods, and care protocols. Eight of nine hospitals endorsed the guidelines. A follow-up survey revealed practice changes for standing orders/protocols, communication, and equipment. CONCLUSION: Regionwide practice changes can be successfully implemented. Guidelines may be helpful for other regions using primarily one-way maternal transports. (+info)
The World Trade Center attack. Observations from New York's Bellevue Hospital.
This report describes selected aspects of the response by Bellevue Hospital Center to the World Trade Center attack of 11 September 2001. The hospital is 2.5 miles (4 km) from the site of the attack. These first-hand observations and this analysis may aid in future preparations. Key issues described relate to communication, organization, injuries treated, staffing, and logistics. (+info)
Out-of-hours emergency dental services--development of one possible local solution.
This paper describes the development of a local solution to the problem of the provision of out-of-hours dental care in Newcastle and North Tyneside in the north east of England. Focus groups were used to review the current provision of, and problems with, dental out-of-hours emergency provision. A consensus conference involving both general dental and medical practitioners, was subsequently used to develop possible alternative methods for the provision of out-of-hours emergency dental services. A centralised service delivered from a secure location in conjunction with general medical practitioners was developed which was dependent on a nurse-led triage. The linkage with NHS Direct may be an opportunity, in some locations, to integrate dental services more fully with other out-of-hours primary care services. The method described allowed a solution to be generated by practitioners themselves, thus giving ownership and acceptance to the chosen option. (+info)
Emergency ambulance dispatch: is there a case for triage?
Emergency telephone calls for an ambulance (999 calls) are usually dealt with first-come first-served. We have devised and assessed criteria that ambulance dispatch might use to prioritize responses. Data were collected retrospectively on consecutive patients presenting to an accident and emergency (A&E) department after a 999 call. An unblinded researcher abstracted data including age, date, time, caller, location, reason for call and A&E diagnosis and each case was examined for ten predetermined criteria necessitating an immediate ambulance response--namely, cardiac arrest; chest pain; shortness of breath; altered mental status/seizure; abdominal/loin pain >65 years old; fresh haematemesis; fall >2m; stabbing; major burns. 471 patients were recruited, 55% male, median age 50 years. 406 calls came from bystanders or the patients themselves, 36 from general practitioners, 8 from other hospitals and 21 from the police. 52% of patients were admitted. 44% met at least one of the above criteria. Most patients did not meet the criteria for an immediate ambulance response but might nonetheless be suitable for an urgent response. The criteria used in this study have the advantage of being based on the history provided by the caller. The introduction of a priority-based dispatch system could reduce response times to those who are seriously ill, and also improve road safety. (+info)