The need for optimism at a challenging time for the NHS emerges as key theme of Ambulance Leadership Forum

The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives’ (AACE) annual Ambulance Leadership Forum (ALF) took place this year on 9–10 February at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire. Designed to stimulate debate and ideas about the on-going development of emergency and urgent care, delegates were encouraged to share best practice and discuss issues pertinent to the sector.

The theme for this year’s event focused around the future look and feel of ambulance service provision and was largely based on AACEs document published last year, A vision for the ambulance service: 2020 and beyond. This vision presents ambulance services as mobile healthcare providers operated in an extended range of care settings, doing more diagnostic work, more treatment, more health promotion, and providing patients with more services that before.

Delegates were welcomed to the conference by AACE chair and West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust CEO, Anthony Marsh, who called on attendees to embrace the new ambulance initiatives on offer and improve outcomes. He noted that ‘the challenge we are confronted with now [in the NHS] offers us a real opportunity,’ and hoped proceedings for the day would help influence national policy.

The landscape of urgent and emergency care: implementing the Five Year Forward View

The opening address was given by Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers, who asked whether the provider sector had the capacity to deliver the changes outlined in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View? Hopson said that all Trusts would be under pressure to achieve their financial targets in 2016–2017 and that one of the biggest debates would be over standards and performance, especially for ambulances. He highlighted that the majority of providers have found themselves in the ‘needs improvement’ box in terms of Care Quality Commission rating, and that we cannot fix many problems found in the NHS unless we have more vertical integration of health and care and horizontal collaboration.

Prof Keith Willett, national director for acute episodes of care for NHS England, then spoke on the new landscape for urgent and emergency care. He started by mentioning he sat on a sharp fence between the clinical world of service providers and Whitehall, and noted it is a sharp fence. The current provision of urgent and emergency care services sees 24 million calls to the NHS and 7 million emergency ambulance journeys a year. Willett said for those people with urgent but non-life threatening needs we must provide ‘highly responsive, effective and personalised services outside of hospital, and deliver care in or as close to people’s homes as possible.’ For those people with more serious or life-threatening emergency needs, he said: ‘We should ensure they are treated in centres with the very best expertise and facilities in order to maximise their chances of survival and a good recovery.’ As we move into the final phase of the Urgent and Emergency Care Review, the focus is on implementing new models of care and ways of working. He stressed that the ambulance service needs to come to the fore and drive change, and that no paramedic should make a decision in isolation, but should have support from whole of the NHS.

Transforming health and social care: innovation and leadership

Following the first coffee break of the day, Bob Williams, CEO of North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, spoke on devolution in Manchester. After providing a background to the health and social care system in Greater Manchester and the Greater Manchester Devolution Agreement, Williams outlined the principles around the Greater Manchester devolution plan, which include: radical upgrade in population health prevention, transforming care in localities, standardising acute hospital care, and standardising clinical support and back office services. Williams said Greater Manchester devolution offers an opportunity to transform health and social care, and that ambulance service has the tools, the players and the crucial elements to help make the healthcare system changes needed.

Prof Paresh Wankhade of Edge Hill University then spoke on leadership in the emergency services, focusing on interoperability and innovation. Wankhade first set the scene by outlining the leadership challenges faced by emergency services, before highlighting the key issues impacting workforce development, the need for suitable leadership for empowering and motivating staff, provided a critical overview of the state of interoperability, and closed by speaking about innovation in an era of uncertainty. For the ambulance service, he noted an increasing demand but lesser proportion of life-threatening calls, and that performance and quality are unsustainable with current levels of funding. He went on to say that there is very little evidence to suggest that enough is being done to support the workforce for new challenges and performance pressures, and that there is an important role for the College of Paramedics to prepare practitioners for the future.

Leading in challenging times

After lunch, delegates heard a recorded message from Lord Prior of Brampton, parliamentary under secretary of state for NHS productivity, who commended the work that is being done by ambulance services across the country, and apologised on behalf of the secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt, who had to pull out the conference last minute.
This was followed by Rob Webster, CEO of NHS Confederation, who gave one of the most engaging talks of the day on leading in challenging times. He began by explaining there has been a 24% increase in activity for Category A calls for ambulance services since 2011. He went on to stress the need for values-based leadership and system leadership, and that leading should come from every seat in the NHS. If senior ambulance managers do not understand the organisation’s values, then it is difficult to expect staff to understand them. He closed by noting that the NHS is made of people, and that it is the collective commitment, drive and energy that make up an organisation, and what makes a successful future.

Janette Turner, director of the medical research unit at the University of Sheffield, then spoke on managing urgent care outside hospital. Looking at data from March 2015, 27.9–57.6% of 999 calls were not conveyed to emergency departments in England. On population utilisation of emergency ambulance services the UK receives 13 calls per 100 population, compared to Belgium, which has the highest number of calls per population in Europe at 33. Turner said that outcomes of evidence on telephone-based service involved accuracy, compliance, satisfaction, costs, service impact and access. While accuracy is high for minimising risk, inaccuracy tends to come in the form of over triage. Considering the role of management by ambulance clinicians outside hospital, Turner said a small number of high-quality studies support extended paramedic roles as they offer safe decisions, reduced emergency department transports, high satisfaction and are cost effective. However, she did note that decision-making is complex and needs to be underpinned by the right education.

Introducing new delivery models

After another coffee break, Richard Murray, director of policy at the King’s Fund, spoke on new delivery models for urgent and emergency care and NHS Planning Guidance. Murray outlined the key features of NHS Planning Guidance before discussing the implications for urgent and emergency care and ambulance providers. He said it was a game of two halves: a one-year plan for 2016/17, with existing organisations as the key building block, switching to place-based plans for 2017/2018 to 2020/2021. Taken together, Murray said they offer a radical re-drawing of the boundaries in the NHS.

The final talk of the day was delivered by Dr Phil Foster, assistant medical director for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, who spoke on the West Yorkshire Urgent and Emergency Care Vanguard. He explained how the service’s collective local vision was for all patients with emergency and urgent care needs within West Yorkshire to get ‘the right care in the right place—first time—every time.’ The aim was to give patients access to urgent and emergency care through 999 and 111 and given an improved experience with care provided closer to home. This would be a standard service offering across West Yorkshire.

Celebrating excellence at the AACE Outstanding Service Awards

The evening saw delegates celebrate the AACE Outstanding Service Awards. Sponsored by Ferno UK Ltd in aid of the Ambulance Services Charity, ambulance service employees form across England who have gone above and beyond the call of duty were recognised and commended for their outstanding service. The Outstanding Paramedic Award went to Abigail Evans, a cycle response unit paramedic for London Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Outstanding Mentor or Tutor Award went to Chris Mathews, a critical care paramedic with South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. Outstanding Innovation and Change Awards went to Adam Aston, a paramedic with West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust and Thomas Heywood, a clinical manager for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Outstanding Non-Paramedic Clinician Award went to Steve Wainwright, and emergency care assistant for East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Outstanding Control Services Employee Award went to Craig Foster, a call operator for North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. The Outstanding Manager Award went to Karen Gardner, operations manager for North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. The Outstanding Support Services Award went to Tez Westwood, Hazardous Area Response Tram support technician for East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Outstanding Senior Management Award went to Tracy Nicholls, head of quality governance for East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the Outstanding Welfare and Wellbeing Award went to Ben Lambert, a team leader for South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

Workshops allow delegates to discuss emerging themes

The second day, co-hosted by NHS Confederation, featured a morning of facilitated workshops, concluding with a conference summary and forward view. Delegates were given a choice to attend workshops on the themes of ‘our workforce’, ‘technological and digital enablement’, and ‘vanguards and innovation’.

A summary of the main themes discussed in the workforce workshop include the need to engage with staff meaningfully, understanding culture but also taking change, collaboration, and a recognition of whether or not we are doing as much as we can on mental health and race equality.

The technology workshop had a key theme around innovation, and an emphasis that ambulance services are much more than a transportation service. There was a strong feeling that there needs to be better capture and use of data in technological advancements, that procurement needs to be looked at as a whole-systems approach, and that ambulance services should embrace social media.

Within the vanguard workshop there was a clear sense of the great work that is being done across the country. It was recognised that a lot of the components of a really good system are in place, but that we have to learn from each other’s organisations. There was also an emphasis on ensuring that the right culture is in place within services.

With difficulty comes opportunity

The conference came to a close with Anthony Marsh commending the optimism shared by delegates during what is a challenging time for the NHS. He quoted the BBC programme Inside Out, saying there is ‘no need to be miserable, we are winning the war.’ Martin Flaherty, managing director of AACE, then remarked on how sobering it was to hear about the challenging times ahead, particularly around finance. However, he said with difficulty comes opportunity and that as a sector we are always doing our best when in difficulty.

Delegates left with much food for thought and plenty of ideas for implementing change within their own services. Feedback has been positive, with one delegate saying: ‘Excellent conference, completely relevant to our practice in emergency medicine,’ while another remarked: ‘I think the organisation was superb and the quality of speakers and breadth of subject matter was really relevant.’ Congratulations must be extended to AACE for an engaging two days, and delegates can look forward to returning for another year.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 4 March 2016.

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AAA Conference sees Keith Willett call for more evidence-based research in HEMS

Photo Credit: Association of Air Ambulances

This year’s Association of Air Ambulances (AAA) National Conference took place once again at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington, London. In a departure from last year, the organisers removed one theatre to deliver a more interactive workshop programme. Featuring 23 speakers, the one-day conference looked at the future developments of air ambulance fundraising, operation and clinical activity.

Following a brief welcome from AAA national director, Clive Dickin, Hannah Sebright, AAA vice chair, gave delegates an outline of the AAA’s key issues. These included the AAA supporting the call for the European VAT Directive to be amended so all European charities are able to reclaim VAT charges from carrying out their approved activities, and support for local air ambulances and ambulance services through the provision of both financial and clinical help at a local level.

Prof Keith Willett, director for acute episodes of care, NHS England, then gave an update on the Urgent and Emergency Care Review. Explaining developments, findings and the likely impact on pre-hospital aeromedical care, he commended the collaborative work of AAA and the various air ambulance charities. He concluded by highlighting the need for more evidence-based research in helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS).

Mike Shanahan, head of special operations, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS), then provided a review of the preparation and deployment undertaken by YAS for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.

After the first coffee and networking break of the day, Steve Wheaton, assistant chief ambulance officer, West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, gave a report on the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP), outlining progress so far and lessons learned from the Exercise Joint Endeavour held in September.

This was followed by an update on the European Aviation Safety Agency by Brian Baldwin, helicopter flight operations, Civil Aviation Authority.

Nicola Stewart ended the pre-lunch talks with a Care Quality Commission update on changes to regulation of care.

Throughout the day there were a number of breakout sessions and workshops, offering delegates the opportunity to discuss key topics and areas of interest. Some of the highlights of these sessions include Dr Paddy Morgan, anaesthetist/intensivist, Great Western Air Ambulance giving a review of the drowning process, and Alistair Wood, GE Medical systems looking at portable ultrasound in the pre-hospital care environment.

After lunch, communications trainer Mark Hogan, who required air ambulance care following a fall, gave an alternative yet engaging talk on how he took on a bet to put on a comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Lt Col Chris Wright, defence consultant advisor, then spoke on lessons from the theatre of war. A clinician who has spent years treating injured soldiers and civilians, he outlined how lessons learnt in the field can be applied in a civilian setting.

Nigel Hare, operations director, Devon Air Ambulance Trust, gave an overview of European Standards, explaining what they are and issues relevant to them. He explained how he identified a potential problem in EN 13718, the European minimum standard for safety and a specific one for air ambulances, as none of the UK air ambulances services met the standard.

Prof Keith Willett gave an update on the Urgent and Emergency Care Review, explaining developments, findings and the likely impact on pre-hospital aeromedical care

Prof Keith Willett gave an update on the Urgent and Emergency Care Review, explaining developments, findings and the likely impact on pre-hospital aeromedical care. Photo Credit: Association of Air Ambulances

Dr Ben Singer of Royal Brompton Hospital then gave a talk on potential pre-hospital applications of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). He provided an outline of a possible model for pre-hospital ECMO, as well as circumstances where it may be used in the future.

Finally, Dr Gareth Davies, consultant London’s Air Ambulance, spoke on resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) in the pre-hospital environment.

Speaking after the event, Clive Dickin said:

‘Our conference speakers covered not only detailed topics but also higher level strategic subjects from clinical, air operational and fundraising subjects. This is exclusive to our conference, giving a unique perspective and knowledge base for aeromedical teams, charity staff, management, directors’ trustees. The event is designed as one of the key activities that delivers the Association’s strategy of sharing knowledge across the sector, not only looking at lessons learnt but also new innovation, further improving pre-hospital critical care.’

Awards of Excellence

This year saw the Association of Air Ambulances’ second Awards of Excellence. Held in the evening following the conference, the awards were open to all air ambulance operations within the UK and nominations were made from patients, staff, management and the general public.

BBC television presenter Louise Minchin returned to host the awards, with actor and comedian Robert Llewellyn also on hand to provide support and comic relief.

Nigel Hare, operations director, Devon Air Ambulance Trust, picked up two awards for the evening, including Charity Staff Member of the Year and the AAA Chairman’s Award. He was recognised for his input, commitment and passion in his work not only at Devon Air Ambulance Trust but nationally, including as a director of the Association of Air Ambulances.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Gerry Hermer, aviation adviser to the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA). Hermer was recognised for a great number of achievements, including his commitment to continue to develop and improve the aviation capacity of EAAA, despite his supposed retirement.

Air Ambulance Paramedic of the Year went to Mark Fuszard of Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, Air Ambulance Doctor of the Year went to Dr Rik Thomas of Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust, and Air Ambulance Pilot of the Year went to Captain Paul Smith of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance Trust.

Other winners were Jayden ‘JJ’ Butcher for the Outstanding Young Person Award; Janice Flower, who was named Charity Staff Member of the Year; and Gladys Tingle, who was named Charity Volunteer of the Year.

The Air Ambulance Campaign of the Year went to London’s Air Ambulance for their ‘25th Anniversary Campaign’, and the Special Incident Award went to Midland’s Air Ambulance Charity.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 5 December 2014.