AROUND 80,000 people from across the North West managed to avoid a trip to hospital last year thanks to enhanced telephone advice from ambulance staff.

The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) has expanded its team of clinicians, known as the Clinical Hub, who assess patients on the phone and provide self-care advice or arrange for them to get the care they need to avoid any unnecessary trips to hospital.

As part of its two-year 'Transforming Patient Care' programme, which began in summer 2017, NWAS focused on introducing initiatives to ensure that patients who called 999 but did not need immediate hospital treatment could receive the right care and support within the community.

This programme included developing the 24/7 Clinical Hub by increasing the number of clinicians - including paramedics, nurses, mental health practitioners and clinical pharmacists - available to offer support to people who need assistance but may not need an ambulance - this is called 'hear and treat.'

Despite an overall increase in 999 calls year-on-year, almost 39,000 fewer patients were taken to hospital by NWAS in 2018/19 following the introduction of Transforming Patient Care.

The decrease in the number of people taken to hospital is estimated to have freed up more than 19,000 hours of emergency ambulance time.

Mark Newton, who leads Transforming Patient Care, said: “We’re committed to delivering the right care, at the right time, in the right place for North West residents and, depending on your symptoms, this doesn’t always mean an emergency ambulance to hospital.

“To meet the rising demand on our service, we should only send an ambulance when it is clinically required and not everyone who calls 999 needs an emergency ambulance response.

"The expansion of the Clinical Hub, along with other improvements under the Transforming Care Programme, has increased our capability to manage this demand by helping to keep our emergency resources available to respond to life-threatening incidents while still delivering high quality care to patients with less urgent needs.

"Avoiding unnecessary hospital trips also helps our colleagues in other parts of the NHS, by reducing pressure on busy A&E departments.

“It’s important to highlight that in many cases, the Clinical Hub will refer patients to other services in the community which is something individuals may have been able to do more quickly themselves.

"Therefore we ask members of the public to consider carefully which health service would be most appropriate to help them before dialling 999 – if the problem is not a life-threatening emergency, please visit, call 111, or speak to a GP or pharmacist for advice.

"This helps us keep 999 free for the most serious incidents.”