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Pilot health scheme to cut bed blocking

Unnecessary trips to casualty triggered by 999 calls could be reduced if a scheme to treat falls in the home takes off, a Redhill ambulance boss has claimed.

Brian Allen, manager of East Surrey's ambulance service, said the pilot scheme, in which paramedics call for relief from nursing or social services staff, is a vital move to take pressure off the accident and emergency department at East Surrey Hospital, Redhill.

A large amount of paramedics' time is spent dealing with elderly people who have fallen.

The scheme could even help cut the number of delayed hospital discharges, because it builds a direct link to social services something which the ambulance service previously did not have.

Mr Allen, who is based at Redhill Ambulance Station on Pendleton Road, said of the scheme, launched at the weekend: "This will reduce the number of patients going to A&E because they will actually be treated in their own home environment, which will help to reduce the bed blocking at East Surrey Hospital.

"We think there could be a five per cent potential reduction of people who have fallen going into the acute centre.

"We want to work closely with the acute centre and other agencies to give every patient the opportunity to have the right level of care at the right location, which doesn't necessarily mean the acute trust."

Under the scheme, paramedics arriving to treat usually an elderly patient, will decide if they are at risk of falling again, or if they are injured.

If they are injured first aid or the A&E route will be pursued, and if they are not at risk of falling again, East Surrey Primary Care Trust's (PCT) Intermediate Care Service (ICS) will step in within two hours to make an assessment.

Mr Allen added: "If the crews get an element of doubt in the back of their mind they'll take them to the acute site, because it's a place of safety and that's paramount."

The scheme, part of a Government plan called Reforming Emergency Care, has been tried out successfully in Brighton. The ICS is manned seven days-a-week, between 9am and 4pm, but depending on demand these hours could be extended.

Once the patient is assessed, they could be given up to six weeks' rehabilitation away from home, or be referred for longer-term care. For information on preventing falls call the PCT on 01737 768511 ext 6029, or NHS Direct on 08 45 46 47.

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