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Ambulance crews urged to conserve oxygen


Ambulance staff are being urged to conserve oxygen supplies because of a national shortage of small cylinders used both on ambulances and in some A&E departments.

South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust has told staff the shortage is caused by the high number of patients with respiratory conditions and “the suppliers are reporting that this is higher than during the first wave of the covid pandemic”.

In a message to staff last week, East of England Ambulance Service Trust said: “Oxygen suppliers, including BOC, are currently unable to supply sufficient numbers [of small cylinders] to fulfil our orders.

“This has been escalated nationally and NHS Procurement are working to support ambulance trusts with supplies.” But it added that over the next few days it would need to “carefully manage” supplies.

The type of cylinder affected typically provides about 30 minutes of oxygen on full flow and is widely used on ambulances and also where patients are cohorted in accident and emergency departments or kept in corridors waiting to be passed to hospitals, without access to the normal piped supply. Many ambulances will carry several smaller cylinders, and sometimes they also carry one larger one. However, if a patient requiring oxygen can’t be handed over quickly at A&E, ambulance supplies may start to run low.

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Source: HSJ, 30 December 2022

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