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Ambulance service urges emergency care changes

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A new national phone number for urgent care alongside 999 should be set up to help patients get the services they need, officials said today.

The Ambulance Service Network (ASN) wants a single point of access for all urgent care that would provide a directory of services with information showing where urgent care is available near the patient.

This would direct callers to care provided by a range of centres and professionals, including paramedics that provide care in the local community or patients' homes; GPs; walk-in and urgent care centres; minor injuries units; mental health and social care services; and community nursing teams.

The ASN's plans are to be unveiled at the NHS Confederation annual conference in Manchester.

It also wants patients' outcomes and experiences to be measured along with response times and for funding to be provided so that it encourages services to treat patients in the most appropriate place for their clinical need – in specialist centres where necessary and in local communities where possible.

ASN director Liz Kendall described the ambulance service as "one of the most important gateways to health and social care".

"We want to make sure all our patients get the best care for their needs. Sometimes this will mean an ambulance taking the patient to a specialist centre, for example if they're having a stroke or heart attack, providing high quality clinical care along the way," she added.

"But many of our patients will be better cared for in their local community or home, either by a specially trained paramedic, or other urgent care service.

"We need to change the way the system works to ensure all our patients get the right care, in the right place, at the right time – and that we deliver the best value for money for taxpayers' money."

© Adfero Ltd
19 June 2008 00:01 GMT

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