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Emergency ambulances set to return to Westmorland General

January 20, 2009 5:25 PM

Local MP Tim Farron is celebrating success this week as the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) takes steps to allow emergency ambulances to return to the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal.

Under current rules the seriousness of an incident is categorised by the operator who takes the 999 call, who then advises the paramedics accordingly. The most serious of incidents (categories A and B) must be taken to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary or Furness General Hospital in Barrow even if the paramedics on the scene find that the injuries are not as critical as first thought.

The inability of paramedics to 'downgrade' the seriousness of an incident is one of the key issues being blamed for the A&E department in Lancaster being so overwhelmed.

Following conversations between Mr Farron and John Burnside, the North West Ambulance Service's Chief Executive, NWAS has agreed to take immediate steps to allow emergency ambulances to return to the Westmorland General where this is appropriate.

Within the next two to three weeks, NWAS will have set up a 'clinical decision support desk' which will allow paramedics to get expert advice at the scene of an incident to help them to make a decision as to whether a patient can be treated at the Westmorland General. Training will also be delivered over the coming months to allow paramedics to make those decisions independently.

Speaking this morning, Mr Farron said: "This is a huge breakthrough. It is completely unacceptable that patients have to endure traumatic and unnecessary trips to Lancaster and Barrow when they could quite easily have been treated at Kendal all along. Paramedics tell me that up to 60% of 999 calls in South Lakeland could be dealt with at the Westmorland General Hospital. Bringing ambulances back to Kendal will strengthen our hospital here as well as relieving unnecessary pressure in Lancaster and Barrow.

"Giving paramedics the power to decide whether a patient can be taken to Kendal will also save them valuable time and resources that could be spent on a call elsewhere."

In welcoming the announcement, Mr Farron has pledged to closely monitor the situation to ensure that situation really does improve.