An EU Interreg-funded programme is currently being delivered in the border counties of Ireland, Northern Ireland and west coast of Scotland. The programme aims to assess and treat higher volumes of patients more effectively, both in scheduled and unscheduled care pathways, through improved and reformed service delivery models, on a cross border basis.
The National Ambulance Service is participating in one of the unscheduled care initiatives. The initiative, a Community Paramedic pilot programme, involves paramedics treating patients in the community. As such, paramedics are functioning outside their customary emergency response and transport roles, in ways that facilitate more appropriate use of emergency care resources and enhance access to healthcare for patients in rural and minor urban areas.
Although the project is at a relatively early stage, the data from the pilot sites indicates that over 86% of patients seen by Community Paramedics were not transferred to an acute setting. Thus, benefits have been derived in that patients are treated in the most appropriate setting but also there has been a reduction in secondary patient transfers and reduced ED attendance. It is anticipated that, in time, the availability of a community paramedic model of care could reduce demand for emergency ambulances and help improve ambulance response times.
The pilot project is expected to be completed in September 2020. At that stage the results will be evaluated and used to inform any further rollout of the community paramedic model of care. Of course, this initiative, where the focus is on delivering enhanced patient care in the community, is fully in line with the objectives of Sláintecare.