Update from South East Coast Ambulance Service
Following a video conference call today with the Chairman and Chief Executive of South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) NHS Foundation Trust, I am delighted to announce that our local ambulance has, and continues to perform extremely effectively following special measures adopted to manage the Coronavirus outbreak.
Despite increasing its staff numbers to cope with the crisis, in April its activity was 7% lower than the same period last year. Whilst this period involved a lot of Cornonavirus related calls, there was also a reduction in injuries from accidents and also general anxiety amongst the public about calling 999 or going to a hospital with other serious medical conditions such as strokes and heart disease. It is estimated that the 'usual' business' calls fell by around 15% in April.
The Service is still urging the public to dial 999 for all medical emergencies.
However, there are signs of a return to more usual calls and SECAmb is expecting a spike of pent-up demand in the coming weeks and months as/if the lock-down eases. The first ten days of May saw call levels at just 2.5% below the same period a year previously.
Likewise, hospitals in the region are slowly picking up their non-COVID-19 activities, though a certain amount of resources will have to remain in Intensive Care Units (ICU) in case of a second spike on infections. All the region's hospitals have coped with the influx of COVID-19 ICU cases and none have had to send patients to other hospitals such as the Nightingale in London. This contingency was planned for by SECAmb, but not needed.
In order to maintain full service during the epidemic, SECAmb has cut down non-essential staff training and employed 350 new bank contract employees. Some of these have been reallocated from Virgin Airways. This has covered the number of employees that have been off sick or self-isolating.
1200 SECAmb staff members and family members have been tested for Coronavirus with 120 positive results. The actual number of infected staff may be higher due to false testing results. Currently, there are around 30 SECAmb employees tested positive for Coronavirus, and, to date, there have been no deaths.
SECAmb is now also operating mobile testing vehicles that visit homes to conduct Corinavirus testing on those who cannot get to the testing centres.
SECAmb is now trial pilot testing asymptomatic but infected staff which may count for 3% to 4%. This is to prevent asymptomatic staff from inadvertently passing on the virus to patients, the public, and other crew.
The PPE situation at SECAmb is now stable with an ongoing buffer of 7 days of spare equipment.
I am sure everyone will support me in congratulating our local ambulance service and its dedicated staff for the way they have so capably managed the crisis so far, in extremely difficult circumstances.