A NEW initiative to steer patients away from East Lancashire's hard-pressed accident and emergency department has proved to be a fledgling success.
Ambulance bosses have been trialling a scheme where specialist paramedics have been assessing patients after 999 calls to see whether they can be diverted to minor injuries units and away from casualty at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
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And the work has seen the number of patients going to A&E drop by more than 40 per cent during the month of December.
Those not needing emergency treatment have instead been transferred to the minor injuries units at Accrington Victoria Hospital and Rossendale Health Hub.
Under the 'hear and treat' arm of the project, the expert paramedic listens over the phone to the symptoms and makes a decision on the best course of action.
Then if the case is deemed serious enough it will go through to the 'see and hear' stage, which involves a home visit by an ambulance for a direct assessment.
A North West Ambulance spokesman said: “This has included ambulance crews taking patients to the Minor Injury Units at Rossendale and Accrington for some limb injuries.
"This not only allows the patient to get treatment sooner and closer to home but also frees up resources spent travelling to Royal Blackburn Hospital."
New community specialist paramedics were also working with local GPs and health centre staff, including those who regularly call 999 for treatment.
The spokesman added: “Recent figures from December 2015 have shown the scheme to be successful as 42 per cent of all 999 calls NWAS received were not conveyed to an emergency department by ambulance.”
The moves have been welcomed by Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group.
A BwD CCG spokesman said: "This allows the treatment of patients closer to home, reduce pressure on the RBH site and keep more ambulances available for response in Hyndburn and Rossendale."
NHS chiefs have highlighted the continuing pressures placed on the A&E department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, which is one of the busiest in the north-west.