Background The London Ambulance Service (LAS) runs an Emergency Responder (ER) scheme, where trained volunteers respond to 999 calls in blue-light rapid response vehicles (RRVs), alongside the statutory ambulance service response.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented surge in call volume which, combined with reduced staffing of double-crewed ambulances (DCAs) due to illness, severely impaired the service’s ability to respond to calls.
In response to this, as well as increasing volunteer RRV shifts, ERs were given additional up-skill training to work with regular ambulance service clinicians on DCAs, thus increasing the number of DCAs available to attend calls.
This study aims to review the response to the COVID-19 pandemic provided by ERs.
Method A retrospective review was conducted of all ER shifts on volunteer RRVs and the service’s front-line DCAs. Data from the same time period (March 1 – April 30) was compared between 2019 (pre-pandemic period) and 2020 (pandemic period). The statistical significance of proportions was calculated using the χ2 test.
Results The absolute number of RRV hours volunteered by ERs increased by 34.2% (2,017 to 2,707), resulting in a 21.2% increase in RRV shifts (227 to 275) during the pandemic period. Furthermore, the proportion of C1 (life-threatening) incidents attended by ER RRVs doubled (32.4% vs 61.1%, p < 0.0001). In addition to RRV shifts, ERs volunteered 1,222 hours on DCAs during the pandemic, resulting in 125 additional DCA resources available. The combined total hours provided by ERs (RRV/DCA) increased by 94.8% (2,017 to 3,929).
Discussion Volunteer responders are a valuable resource during times of surge. In addition to volunteer RRV shifts, they have to the potential to assist ambulance service clinicians on DCAs. Future pandemic or winter-pressure plans should incorporate volunteer responders. This study predominantly looked at volunteer capacity, and further work is required to investigate patient-centred outcomes.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.