Video calls being trialled over 999 emergency number
Video-call technology such as Skype is being used by doctors during 999 calls if the patient’s condition is deemed non-life-threatening.
A trial is under way to see if face-to-face smartphone apps could allow medics to make more accurate decisions by viewing injuries, the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) revealed.
The authority, which covers four regions in southern England, said the move could help offset the difficulties posed by diagnosing a patient over the phone without being able to see them.
It said other ambulance trusts were also testing out the idea.
Many social media apps now offer video-calling services, including Facebook and WhatsApp.
A spokeswoman for SCAS said: “SCAS is currently trialling the use of technology to provide face-to-face consultations over the telephone, as are other ambulance trusts.
“This was initially started at certain nursing homes who were frequent callers to our service. This enables both the patient and the trained clinician within the clinical co-ordination centre (where 999 calls are received) to see each other.
“This gives the clinician more information when they are assessing the patient as they can see the patient and view the injury severity, symptoms, etc.
“The patient can see the clinician, which improves the experience of the assessment they receive.
“There are some injuries or conditions that are more challenging to assess over the phone with no visual aid and this trial provides increased patient safety during a telephone assessment.”
Other revelations about the work of the ambulance service included that it operates a “no send” policy for its vehicles to the lowest-risk patients during times of peak demand.
SCAS said this was to allow them to prioritise those most at risk if resources are under strain.
During such times, there is also a taxi firm which works with the authority to provide an alternative mode of transport if no ambulances are available to rush people to hospital, it added.
In April it emerged that the delayed rollout of the Emergency Services Network (ESN) could leave the UK’s fire, police and ambulance services with a “potentially catastrophic” six-month gap without their own communications system.