THE latest in our series of columns by West Midlands Ambulance Service is written by quality, service and improvement manager Liz Parker.
As providers of the NHS 111 service across the West Midlands, we believe we have come a long way in a short space of time, a lot of which is down to the hard work of our staff and a number of changes we have made.
The problems the service faced when we stepped in are well reported, but one of the biggest criticisms is the fact calls are answered by health advisors with a non-clinical background.
As a result, this is something we knew we had to focus on immediately in order to start restoring the public’s trust in the service.
Before we took over the service, staff previously received two weeks of training before going live.
Believing this was not enough, we decided to implement the eight-week training programme that works so well in the 999 call centre. A programme that includes a week of basic first aid, two weeks of NHS Pathways training and a week of system and policy/procedure training before four weeks of mentoring in a live environment.
The final of those eight weeks includes an assessment for competence which allows the health advisor to be signed off to take calls independently.
By introducing this we believe our health advisors are a lot more prepared to deal with the role and the calls they face than previously, which is backed up by our continued strong level of performance against the national targets we face and the fact that call levels are rising.
Behind the health advisors we have a team of clinically-trained professionals who are available to take over a call and investigate a patient’s symptoms further before making a final decision on the most appropriate service at that time.
The amount of clinical knowledge in the room is something we are constantly increasing as highlighted by the recent introduction of a clinical hub of excellence, something we will focus more on in next month’s column.