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Tens of thousands of iPads will be issued to ambulance crews across England so that patients get the right care faster, NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens announced today.
The 30,000 devices will allow ambulance crews to send photographs from the scene of an accident so stroke specialists and other clinicians on standby in emergency departments can get straight to work when the patient arrives at hospital.
Paramedics will also be able to access vital health records helping them assess patients’ injuries and decide whether they should be taken to hospital or treated at the scene.
Patient information can also be sent ahead to speed up handovers and free the ambulance up to attend another call.
NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens will announce the initiative at the Ambulance Leadership Forum today.
Sir Simon said: “Ambulance crews have been at the forefront of the pandemic, routinely dealing with life and death situations and often first on scene to treat and diagnose critically ill patients.
“These devices are another tool for our highly skilled paramedics and ambulance technicians as they continue to respond to the country’s most critically ill and injured patients.
“It is another example of the health service innovating and harnessing technology to improve patient care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.”
The NHS Long Term Plan committed to providing staff working in the community with mobile devices and digital services.
The initiative is funded by NHSX, who are leading the transformation of health and social care through digital technology.
While the ratio of iPads to staff will vary based on need, in some areas including London, every ambulance worker will have access to one.
Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said: “At NHSX we are working to help frontline staff use digital technology to transform the service they provide, and these tablets will give paramedics an extra edge.”
The use of iPads has been piloted by ambulance crews in London and the South East, with early results showing how effective having access to vital information or specialist medical advice can be to emergency call outs.
South East Coast Ambulance has been using the tablets to video call consultants when attending stroke patients, to provide faster and more specialised care until they reach hospital.
Paramedics treating those suspected of suffering a stroke can dial in senior doctors, who via video, can assess a patient’s condition and advise on the best course of action.
Dr Fionna Moore, Medical Director at South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The iPads are proving invaluable in assisting our clinicians in the rapid identification of stroke patients to expedite their treatment and help identify the most appropriate clinical pathway.
“This direct link to local experts by ‘bringing them into the back of an ambulance’ via facetime, is something we are keen to explore further to see how it can be developed in other areas of care for the benefit of our patients.”
At London Ambulance Service (LAS), paramedics use digitised patient records to benefit their clinical decision-making, helping to ensure patients receive the most effective treatment tailored to their medical history.
Stuart Crichton, a paramedic and the Chief Clinical Information Officer at LAS, said: “The successful rollout of electronic devices across the capital has helped our frontline crews feel better supported when making quick decisions for their patients, with the wealth of information available at their fingertips meaning each patient is getting the correct and most appropriate care for their needs.
“These devices have not only empowered our staff when making their clinical decisions, but have also helped treat patients quicker, while reducing the number of unnecessary trips to hospital.”
Minister for Health Edward Argar said: “Our paramedics and ambulance crews play a vital role on the NHS frontline, day-in, day-out. By rolling out these iPads we are harnessing modern technology, helping them to help you by enabling them to continue providing the very best emergency care more quickly to more patients.
“Investing in these devices will help the NHS to build back better by ensuring patients and staff are benefitting from the latest technology, and is part of our commitment through the NHS Long Term Plan to improve care for the future.”
Following the success seen in London and the South East, NHSX is supporting the nationwide rollout of devices through eight English ambulance trusts.
Crews in the East Midlands will use the tablets to send photographs from the scene of road traffic accidents to the receiving hospital to help clinicians prepare to treat patients.
The photographs can help emergency departments organise themselves based on the severity of the incident and how many patients they should be expecting and can be linked to the patient’s record.
Paramedics are also able to complete digital handovers on the way to hospital, making them available more quickly to attend their next call.