Volunteers are being asked to drive 999 patients to hospital, as part of efforts to relieve pressures on ambulance services. The Telegraph has more.
The London Ambulance Service (LAS) is to start piloting the system within weeks, as senior doctors warn of “staggeringly bad” delays to emergency care in some parts of the country.
Although volunteers are regularly used by hospitals and charities to take patients to outpatient appointments, this is thought to be the first time that non-professionals will be used to ferry emergency cases.
The ambulance service already sends taxis to take some patients to hospital. The new scheme is aimed at patients who are classed as “category 3” – meaning they should get an urgent response within two hours – and who need help because of mobility problems.
LAS officials said that NHS England is looking to use it as the basis for a “national volunteer transport” system.
Across the country, ambulance response times are the lowest on record, with average waits of more than an hour for heart attack and stroke victims in March, against a target of 18 minutes.
In the capital, average waits for such emergencies were almost 51 minutes, data show.
So far, 22 volunteers have been signed up and trained for the scheme, which is currently using “community first responders” trained by St. John’s Ambulance.
Responders, who have training in emergency first aid, are normally deployed to get to emergency calls quickly and provide on-the-spot help before ambulance crews can get there.
The service told a board meeting last month: “The project is supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement who are looking to implement a national volunteer transport model based on using our model.”
NHS England is understood to have provided £100,000 funding for the pilots, set to be launched in May, using LAS cars based at each of the six ambulance stations across the capital.
The new scheme comes amid warnings of “appalling” waits for ambulances in some parts of the country.
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