AMBULANCE trips to Swansea Bay hospitals are being reduced, thanks to a GP who assesses the ever-present stack of 999 calls the service handles.
This work is being stepped up as part of an ongoing Swansea Bay University Health Board winter plan to deal with increased seasonal demand.
The GP is able to redirect patients who don’t need to go to accident and emergency.
Speaking at a health board meeting, chief executive Tracy Myhill said this recent measure has resulted in a 40% reduction in ambulance admissions. “Once you rock up at A&E, it’s very hard to say, ‘You’re in the wrong place,’” she said.
Other measures are in place to try to get hospital patients home quicker, and help more patients at walk-in centres so hospital admission is avoided.
An extra ambulance vehicle – plus physiotherapist support – is also in operation to deal with people who have fallen and injured themselves.
The health board has received £1.2 million from the Welsh Government to implement these winter initiatives, while further money has been allocated to social care measures.
Mrs Myhill described the winter plan as a “step up” from the previous year’s, and that its focus on frail patients was the right one.
“We need to hold our nerve,” she said. “We are doing the right thing.”
However, plans to recruit two extra accident and emergency consultants at Morriston Hospital have not materialised as yet due to a lack of suitable candidates, according to a report before board members.
It also said seven of the 19 extra beds due to open at Singleton Hospital to deal with the winter surge were not in operation due to a lack of staff availability.
Ongoing unscheduled care pressures across Wales and the UK have been widely reported.
Mrs Myhill and interim board chairwoman Emma Woollett both paid tribute to Swansea Bay staff for their hard work.
The health board has experienced a slight rise in ambulance handover delays at its hospitals.
There were 868 handovers of more than an hour in December 2019, compared to 842 the previous December.
The number of outpatients waiting more than 36 weeks for treatment stood at 5,141, a huge increase on the 3,030 in December 2018.
The latest data also showed that 39% of stroke patients last month were admitted within four hours compared to 53% the previous December, although, on the plus side, there was a marked rise in the number seen by a stroke specialist within 24 hours.
The Welsh Government is to establish an ambulance availability taskforce to try to reduce hospital admissions, among other things, across Wales.
“The relationship between us and the ambulance service is positive,” said Mrs Myhill.
Pic. ShelleyC28 profile [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]