Cross-border ambulance deal

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Cross-border ambulance services are developing a formal protocol for responding to calls in north Northumberland.

The protocol aims to formalise the existing mutual support arrangements between the North East Ambulance Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

It also aims to improve public awareness and quell uncertainty surrounding ambulance call-outs in the Berwick and surrounding areas.

More concerns were raised at a meeting of Berwick Town Council last week about ambulance services in the town.

Local resident Brian Darling expressed concern about the length of time it can take an ambulance to reach the specialist emergency care hospital in Cramlington, especially when there are roadworks on the A1.

He also asked for clarity on whether patients are given a choice on which hospital they are taken to, suggesting that some people are taken to Wansbeck or Cramlington instead of Borders General and vice versa because the drivers are under instruction.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service explained: “If Scottish Ambulance Service is asked by North East Ambulance Service to provide mutual support and agrees to respond to a patient in Berwick upon Tweed, the ambulance crew will assess their patient and then determine which receiving hospital or care pathway is most appropriate in relation to their previous history and presenting condition at that time.

“In a situation where the ambulance crew determines the patient’s condition is immediately life-threatening, the crew would convey the patient to the nearest and most appropriate receiving hospital emergency department, which is likely to be Borders General.

“If the patient’s condition is not deemed to be immediately life-threatening and they required treatment for an existing condition, the ambulance crew may decide, in discussion with the patient, family or relative, to take the patient to the hospital which would be best able to deliver the required care or treatment; or to a hospital where the patient is already known to them thus avoiding a secondary transfer (this would include Wansbeck or Cramlington).

“If the patient has been seen by their GP and there is no immediate life-threatening condition present when the ambulance crew arrive at the patient, we would take the patient to the designated hospital as requested by the GP.

“A review of the existing mutual support arrangements has taken place and a formal protocol is currently being developed between the Scottish Ambulance Service and North East Ambulance Service to ensure that we continue to deliver the best cross-border clinical response to the people of Berwick and Northumberland.”

There have been long-standing concerns about ambulance response times, most notably last year when 16-year-old Kyle Lowes died after his scooter was in collision with a car on North Road in Berwick. It took 26 minutes for an ambulance crew to arrive because they were on a scheduled break.