New 999 priority system

A NEW 999 triage system to help patients get the best response for urgent medical needs without diverting ambulances away from life-or-death emergencies has been launched.

The South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust is the third large ambulance trust in the country to introduce NHS Pathways, replacing the American-based AMPDS 999 priority call system.

NHS Pathways is a sophisticated triage system which prioritises calls based on the clinical symptoms of the patient.

Linked to the system is a directory of services which provides latest information about the availability of alternative healthcare services across the region.

Distribution manager Dan Garratt said: “We know that many people find the NHS confusing and often call 999 out of desperation because they don’t know how to access the right service for their needs.

“All too often we get calls from people who say they don’t want an ambulance but didn’t know who to call.

“NHS Pathways and the directory of services allow us to help patients reach the right service for their clinical need while freeing up our ambulance clinicians to respond to more serious emergencies.”

Depending on the answers provided by the 999 caller, another healthcare provider may be suggested as being best for the patient’s clinical need and advice can be given on how to proceed.

Clinical advisors, who are all paramedics or nurses, are also on hand in control centres to give further advice if needed.