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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
Ambulance journeys 'unnecessary'
Ambulance generic
Over 5m emergency calls are made each year
Half of ambulance trips to hospital may be unnecessary as patients could be treated at the scene, a report says.

The NHS Confederation said the myth the ambulance service was a "patient transport" system must be challenged.

The report said crews were becoming more skilled and in the future nearly two thirds of patients would be treated at the scene in England.

Some 77% of 5.5m emergency calls each year end up with patients being taken to hospital.

But the NHS Confederation said this would change in coming years.

Ambulance staff are becoming a mobile health service so that they can not only be there in an emergency, but also at other times to help people maintain their health
Lord Warner, health minister

The report has been published on the day the number of ambulance trusts is cut from 31 to 12 bodies to streamline management.

It warned the number of emergency calls had more than doubled in the last decade and it was essential patients accept more will be done out of hospital if the service was to cope.

And it said ambulances were increasingly being staffed by emergency care practitioners, who have a wider range of skills than paramedics.

They can prescribe more drugs, take blood tests and refer patients to GPs to reduce the number of emergency admissions.

Call operators have also been trained to offer advice over the phone.


Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "In the past the ambulance services has been perceived as the transport arm of the NHS - simply there to get patients from their homes or the scene of an accident to the nearest accident and emergency department.

"Although this may have been true 20 years ago, it is simply not the case anymore. The ambulance service is under going significant reform and change to treat patients better.

"It has moved beyond a service that transports patients to another place to receive care, into a service that now has the ability, skills and resources to bring care directly to patients in their own homes or at the scene of an incident."

The report comes after the government proposed its own vision for the ambulance service last year, which also said there would be a move to more care at the scene.

Health Minister Lord Warner said: "Ambulance staff are becoming a mobile health service so that they can not only be there in an emergency, but also at other times to help people maintain their health."


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