Background In early March 2020, a senior clinical support cell (SCSC) was established within Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS). The SCSC aimed to provide an additional layer of clinical leadership within the Emergency Operations Centre to support call centre and decision support for on-scene ambulance staff working in challenging circumstances. It was staffed by advanced practitioners, doctors and other senior paramedics with range of diverse skills from critical to urgent care. We aimed to understand the patterns of use of a SCSC for emergency 999 calls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods Routinely collected call data was retrospectively analysed to understand the patterns of use in the first three months of the service. The reason for the call, patient demographic and any regional differences were described. An anonymous survey was distributed to frontline ambulance crews to understand the reasons for contacting the SCSC, or not, and the outcomes of that contact for patient care.
Results 7296 patient care episodes received either a telephone triage by SCSC for 999 calls or 111 calls transferred for an emergency ambulance response (3160) or had telephone support provided to crews on scene (4136). Telephone triage accounted for 3160 calls where 642 cases (20.3%) resulted in a hear-and-treat outcome, and the findings suggest a low re-contact rate within 24 hours at 2.4%.
The primary reasons for crews seeking support/advice from the SCSC were discharge advice or permission (37%); support for pathways in their area (25%); or for cases where patients refused care or conveyance (11%).
Conclusions SCSC was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and lessons can be learned to prepare for any future significant service challenges as a result of the rapid implementation of the SCSC and the clinical leadership required to support the pace of change and emerging clinical knowledge and practice.
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