Ambulance service wins national award for new system that helps vulnerable patients
A new IT system which has transformed how the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) identifies and helps vulnerable patients, has won a national award.
SWASFT teamed up with Exeter-based Iridium Consulting to create the Frequent Caller Management System (FCMS), which has won the Best Healthcare Management Solution category in the Health Tech Digital Awards 2022.
The system was developed in Exeter and Bristol but serves patients from across the whole of the South West region from the Isles of Scilly to North Gloucestershire.
FCMS is the first system of its kind in the UK that automatically identifies any individual who meets the criteria of being a frequent caller to 999 and who contacts the ambulance service from within its geographical area.
Previously, SWASFT’s database could identify only addresses, not people – which caused problems if callers were away from home, or if they lived in a house of multiple occupancy.
The bespoke system uses a unique algorithm to identify people who contact the service frequently and enables SWASFT to provide accurate, up-to-date information to Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings about them. Its data also helps shape specialised programmes for this group of patients. Together, this enables them to receive more personalised care.
Frequent callers, defined as anyone who calls the ambulance service five times or more in one month, are vulnerable because they often have a complex mixture of medical, social and psychological needs. This means they need the help of a Multi-Disciplinary Team and can experience repeated difficulties when trying to access care and support.
Jonathan Hammond-Williams, SWASFT’s Complex Care Lead, says: “This system helps us to identify and support some of our most vulnerable patients. They are often socially isolated and have not one but several health needs. Having multiple problems coming together forms what can feel like the perfect storm for them.
“FCMS has revolutionised what we do. We have gone from manually counting houses to automatically providing data to help improve each individual patient’s quality of life. It allows us to track who has called and why, and to support the wider healthcare system in getting them the personalised help they need.
“It was a real team effort to develop FCMS and I’m so pleased SWASFT and Iridium Consulting have earned this national acknowledgement. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed, both within and outside the ambulance service”.
Sam Rankin, Director of Iridium Consulting, says: “We were delighted when we learnt about winning the award. Overcoming the challenges to design and develop FCMS to support the ambulance service that serves 20 per cent of England’s land-mass is something the team at Iridium are immensely proud of.
“Distilling and presenting such a large dataset into a concise, more manageable and meaningful version required new approaches and solutions, making FCMS a truly unique application in the space. It wouldn't have been possible without such a close working relationship with the team at SWASFT and it is an honour to see the application being used as a central tool for managing such a complex part of the service SWASFT provides.”
Other benefits of FCMS include:
- Reducing the number of distinct frequent callers to SWASFT from 1,500 a month in 2018 to 925 in 2022, as callers are supported by more appropriate services than an emergency ambulance
- Improving the availability of ambulances across the South West to attend life-threatening emergencies
- Providing a one-stop shop for health professionals to see all previous episodes of care, the reasons for a call, and the actions completed by the clinicians involved in their 999 calls
- Enabling improved links with other parts of the NHS, including acute hospitals trusts and mental health trusts.
Jess Taylor, Senior Frequent Caller Administrator, helped develop the system. She adds: “FCMS allows us to put the patient at the centre of everything we do. A lot of work has gone into the system, so it’s very humbling and very exciting to get that recognition on a national level”.
The system, which became operational in November 2020, has also supplied data that has helped shape services for this very vulnerable group of patients across the whole of the South West, with at least five new services being developed within parts of the region as a result.