Skype consultation trials for 999 callers

Ambulance trusts across the UK are reportedly piloting video-calling technologies, such as Skype or FaceTime, for 999 callers

A former NHS employee told the Daily Mail that ambulance trusts are trialling video-testing technologies to ease pressures

[London, UK] Trials are currently being conducted across the UK to see if patients contacting 999 can be assessed through video-calling platforms such as Skype or FaceTime, it has been revealed.

A former South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) employee, Karen Frederick, initially revealed details of these trials; speaking to the Daily Mail, she unveiled a number of controversial operations, including sending taxis to 999 callers to bring them to hospitals if there are no ambulances available.

The SCAS revealed an initial pilot was carried out at nursing homes, where patients would frequently dial 999, adding that other ambulance trusts were also piloting face-to-face video consultations for patients calling 999 with non-life-threatening injuries or conditions.

New response targets

Last Thursday, NHS England introduced new performance targets that will apply to all 999 calls; one such measure includes extending the ambulance response time for heart attack and stroke victims to up to 40 minutes, although an ambulance will reportedly get to a patient within 18 minutes. 

However, health officials argue ensuring cardiac arrest patients receive the right care will save up to 250 lives a year.

In a statement, Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England National Medical Director, said:

“Patients across the country deserve to benefit from the significant improvements seen in the trial areas, from ambulances reaching cardiac arrests in London 30 seconds faster to the one minute improvement on stroke responses in the West Midlands.

“These changes, together with ambitious new clinical standards for heart attack and stroke patients, will end the culture of ‘hitting the target but missing the point.’ They will refocus the service on what actually counts: outcomes for patients.”

You can find out more about the overhaul of the ambulance service targets here.