Hannah Rusby reassures her patient he’s in good hands. He is in his eighties, skeletal, confused and struggling to answer basic questions. His breathing is rapid.
After a few minutes of probing questions and basic tests, Rusby knows this is serious — after months of decline while living alone, the man is critically ill and needs to go to hospital urgently.
With more than 500,000 people waiting for social care assessments across England, emergency calls such as this are increasingly common.
“We are becoming a middleman for all the other services,” said Rusby, who qualified as a paramedic seven years ago and works for the London Ambulance Service (LAS). She said the job increasingly involves responding to people who fall through society’s cracks.
Daniel Elkeles, 49, chief executive of the LAS, agrees: “There are lots of patients who, if something else were available, we wouldn’t need to take them to hospital. As the population has got older and frailer, it’s unsurprising that an increasing number of the calls are not traditional emergencies.”
He believes paramedics can be the link between GPs, community nursing and social care.
From next week, the LAS will pilot having three cars covering six boroughs in southwest London. Each will have a paramedic and a community nurse and will respond to 999 calls from elderly people who have fallen at home.
They’re going to see every frail elderly person who has fallen [and] hasn’t broken a bone, and our aim is to keep all of those patients at home. The community nurse will assess the house to make sure it’s safe then refer the patient to their GP and an urgent community response team,” said Elkeles.
The service hopes this will mean as many as 1,000 fewer people going to A&E a year.
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Source: Sunday Times, 2 September 2022
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