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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 December 2005, 00:38 GMT
NHS patients tracked by satellite
Image of an ambulance
The drivers log where they are travelling
The movement of patients in Coventry and Warwickshire is being tracked to streamline NHS ambulance services.

Drivers logging the time they pick up and drop patients at destinations on a mobile phone should enable control rooms to better coordinate transfers.

Inbuilt satellite navigation will also help locate hard to find addresses.

The system appears to be fast, adaptable and cost effective, a spokesman for Coventry and Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust said.

It should mean fewer waits and wasted trips, says T@lecom Ltd, a wireless communication company at Coventry University's Technology Park.

"Sat Nav"

The technology was originally developed to track the movement of parcels.

But T@lecom figured the Wireless Delivered device could also work to track patients.

We needed a way to track everyone individually and we thought that if it was possible to do this with a parcel, why not a patient
Chris Brown from Coventry & Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust

A touch-screen mobile phone logs information inputted by the ambulance driver and relays it back to the control centre.

The control room can then see exactly where any given vehicle in their fleet is and arrange patient transfer minute by minute.

Gordon Younie, operations director at T@lecom, said: "The biggest advantage is having live feedback on their status coupled with automatic satellite navigation which prevents delays and wasted time."

He said the personal digital assistant (PDA) devices also cut out paperwork.

Each tracking device costs the NHS Trust 55 per month. Coventry & Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust has signed up to a three year contract.

Mobile network

It has been using 131 of the PDA mobiles to log and track the movement of non-emergency ambulance patients for the last six months.

Chris Brown from Coventry and Warwickshire Ambulance NHS Trust said: "Previously, we used mobile radio technology and organised our vehicles on a journey scheduling basis.

"This was fine up to a point. Individual journey times were recorded but the original system only reported as complete loads.

"We needed a way to track everyone individually and we thought that if it was possible to do this with a parcel, why not a patient."

T@lecom's managing director Jan O'hara said Gloucestershire emergency services would soon start using the devices too.

He said they were talking to every single trust in the UK at the moment and it was possible that eventually the system could be rolled out nationally.

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