OBJECTIVE: To determine the warning time given to accident and emergency (A&E) departments by the ambulance service before arrival of a critically ill or injured patient. To determine if this could be increased by ambulance personnel alerting within five minutes of arrival at scene. METHODS: Use of computerised ambulance control room data to find key times in process of attending a critically ill or injured patient. Modelling was undertaken with a scenario of the first responder alerting the A&E department five minutes after arrival on scene. RESULTS: The average alert warning time was 7 min (range 1-15 min). Mean time on scene was 22 min (range 4-59 min). In trauma patients alone, the average alert time was 7 min, range 2-15 min, with an average on scene time of 23 min, range 4-53 min. There was a potential earlier alert time averaging 25 min (SD 18.6, range 2-59 min) if the alert call was made five minutes after arrival on scene. CONCLUSIONS: A&E departments could be alerted much earlier by the ambulance service. This would allow staff to be assembled and preparations to be made. Disadvantages may be an increased "alert rate" and wastage of staff time while waiting the ambulance arrival.
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