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Can emergency medical service staff predict the disposition of patients they are transporting?
  1. K Clesham1,
  2. S Mason1,
  3. J Gray2,
  4. S Walters1,
  5. V Cooke3
  1. 1
    School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2
    Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Wakefield, UK
  3. 3
    Emergency Department, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Miss S Mason, School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Regents Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK; s.mason{at}


Background: Emergency medical service (EMS) staff in the UK routinely transport all emergency responses to the nearest emergency department (ED). Proposed reforms in the ambulance service mean that EMS staff will transport patients not necessarily to the nearest hospital, but to one providing facilities that the patient is judged to require. No previous UK studies have evaluated how accurately EMS staff can predict which transported patients will require admission to hospital.

Objectives: To survey EMS staff regarding the appropriate use of their service and determine whether they can predict which patients will require hospital admission.

Methods: A prospective ‘‘service evaluation’’ of EMS staff transporting patients to an adult ED in the UK. Staff were asked to state whether ED attendance by emergency ambulance was appropriate and whether transported patients would be admitted or discharged from the ED.

Results: During the study period, there were 2553 emergency transports to the ED and questionnaires were completed in 396 cases (15.5%). EMS staff predicted that 182 (46.0%) would be admitted to hospital and 214 (54.0%) would be discharged. Actual dispositions were 187 (47.2%) versus 209 (52.8%) respectively. Sensitivity of predicting admission was 71.7% (95% CI 65 to 78) and specificity was 77.0% (95% CI 71 to 81). EMS staff were significantly better at predicting admission in non-trauma cases than trauma cases (75.9% vs 57.1%, 95% CI 2.2 to 35.4).

Conclusion: Staff in one UK ambulance service showed reasonable accuracy when predicting the likelihood of admission of patients they transport. They correctly identified most patients who would be able to leave. Further work is needed to support these findings and ensure that EMS staff safely triage patients to alternative destinations of care.

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  • Contributors: KC, SM and VC developed the idea for the study and designed the study. JG facilitated the service involvement from the YAS. KC and VC undertook the data collection. KC, SW and SM undertook the data analysis. KC, SM, JG, VC and SW contributed to writing the paper.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: This study was conducted as a “service evaluation” and permission for it was granted by YAS (south area) and staff at the ED.

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