Innovative project designed to reduce pressure on hospital services celebrates first successful year

More than 5,000 patients across North Wales have benefitted from an innovative collaboration between Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board and the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAST).

The Single Integrated Clinical Assessment and Triage Service (SICAT) was introduced at the North Wales Ambulance Clinical Contact Centre in October 2018 to review 999 calls.

A team of GPs were recruited into the service to identify patients who may benefit from seeing their GP or pharmacist, rather than attend an Emergency Department via an ambulance.

The GPs together with Advanced Paramedic Practitioners assess the patient when they call 999 by gaining their clinical history, and where safe and possible, offer an alternative route for their illness or injury.

Dr Helen Alefounder, one of the GPs involved in the service, said: “This exciting initiative was launched with WAST to further support the way we care for and signpost our patients.

“This service currently supports the ambulance service, out of hours, primary and secondary care.

“Of the 5,000 patients we have reviewed through SICAT, we have reduced the number of admissions to the Emergency Department by 65 per cent and the number of ambulances required to attend.

“It is an effective and dynamic service that is helping to reduce the demand on our Emergency Departments and ambulance service and ensures our patients are getting their care in the right place at the right time.

“This has been a really positive project from the beginning and the support from staff from both organisations has been tremendous.

“There has been a real sense that we are making a difference and people working with the project can see the impact this has had on many patients who are particularly frail, vulnerable and palliative patients.”

Mark Timmins, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Implementation Lead in North Wales, said this collaborative working has enabled patients to access the system in right way.

He said: “The Emergency Department isn’t always the answer, which is why we’re working with GPs to signpost patients to a more appropriate alternative if their illness or injury could be better dealt with elsewhere.

“The evidence shows that this initiative is making a real impact, freeing up our crews and vehicles to respond to other, more serious emergencies.

“The SICAT also gives our crews a direct pathway for help and advice while still with a patient, which they have found invaluable.

“The public can help by using our ambulance service sensibly; help us help you when you need us most and think carefully before you dial 999.”