Saturday, 3 March 2007

The ambulance IT system

I read this article and was shocked.
"Urgent talks are underway to save a computerised capacity and activity monitoring system (CAMS) used to direct ambulances to hospitals best placed to deal with patients after PCTs in the East of England SHA withdrew their funding.

The East Anglian Ambulance Trust and acute trusts across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are in last minute talks with East of England (EoE) SHA to prevent the screens going blank on 7 March 2007."
Instead of just withdrawing the funding (£175,000 per year), why can't the PCTs actively find ways to make it financially worthwhile. There are clear technical and productivity benefits - so it would definitely be worth saving.

Apparently there has been a massive overspend of £175m. What happened to proper financial planning and project management? I learned that sort of thing at A-Level and this is a government project - so they should know this stuff. It's just plain ridiculous.

Nurses update the system's information on a two-hourly basis and it contains details of the number of empty beds and waiting times. That sort of thing can be essential as there are many cases where patients need to get to hospitals as soon as possible and if they arrive at one that's full, they could die.

Recent evaluations of the system show that it can save a lot of money and it tends to divert around 5% of patients. That might not seem much, but when you consider the number of busy A&Es across the country, it can add up to quite a few people.

The reporter for E-Health Insider mentioned:
"Losing CAMS is unlikely to endanger patients, sources told EHI, as hospitals have a duty to treat patients in an emergency. But it will mean the ambulances and trusts revert to pen and paper."
Considering that the NHS is implementing the National Programme for IT, which supposedly revolutionises the way hospitals work, this goes against the objectives of the government project.

In the FrontPoint Systems blog, they call it "short-termism" in this entry. It's certainly that. There have been many cases where businesses have initially made losses, but then gone on to make a profit. Why can't the PCTs see that the savings will eventually cancel out the epxense (ok, it might be a long time given the overspend, but it will happen eventually).

The key objectives in the strategic action plan for the Welsh version of this system are:
  • Provide and coordinate an increasing range of mobile healthcare for patients who need urgent or unscheduled care
  • Provide an increasing range of other services and alternative care pathways, e.g. in primary care, diagnostics and health promotion
  • Improve the speed and quality of service provided to patients with emergency care needs
  • Improve the speed and quality of call handling, provide significantly more clinical advice to callers, and work in a more integrated way with partner organisations to ensure consistent telephone services for patients who need urgent care
  • Improve overall efficiency, effectiveness, consistency and quality of care provision
  • Ensure Trust compliance with the Civil Contingencies Act 2004
  • Provide strong leadership, both clinical and managerial, so that organisation structure, culture and style match new models of care
Those objectives will be the same as the English version, and they are worthwhile objectives. Why not do something to keep the system going?

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Ambulances, IT, Healthcare