West Midlands Ambulance Service lauded for its use of digital technology to help patients

West Midlands Ambulance Trust has been recognised as one of the two best in the country in using digital technology to help patients.

WMAS operational support services director Craig Cooke, head of IM&T and WMAS GDE programme lead, Phil Collins and NHS digital engagement lead for Midlands, Ian Nelson.
WMAS operational support services director Craig Cooke, head of IM&T and WMAS GDE programme lead, Phil Collins and NHS digital engagement lead for Midlands, Ian Nelson.

In 2020/2021 ambulance crews' access to a patients records rose to 58.9 per cent against a national target of just five per cent.

The trust received accreditation from NHS England and NHS Improvement as part of its Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme.

A GDE is an internationally recognised NHS provider delivering improvements in the quality of patient care, through the world-class use of digital technologies and information.

Exemplars will share their learning and experiences through the creation of blueprints to enable other trusts to follow in their footsteps as quickly and effectively as possible.

Through the GDE projects, the trust has significantly changed access to records for WMAS clinicians while with patient and integrated with multiple online platforms.

Through accessing the patient’s record, clinicians can make better decisions for their patients as they are better informed about diagnoses and treatment plans that are in place.

Operational support services director Craig Cooke said: "A huge amount of work has been completed over the last few years to get to this point, and I want to thank all the staff who have taken on and completed the GDE.

"We’re now recognised against an international standard of digital capability and maturity and being one of just two ambulance services in the country to achieve this accolade is very special."

He added: "The team from NHS England and NHS Improvement were extremely complimentary about the trust’s determination to complete the GDE accreditation despite the pandemic pressures. Thanks also to the NHS Digital team – the whole process has been useful and a learning experience as well. It has certainly impacted how we will deliver projects moving forward."

Head of IM&T Phil Collins added: "Traditionally we have focussed on delivering IT equipment, but digital draws more attention to how technology is used and the impact on patients, and this change of perspective helps deliver more benefit to our community."

The Covid-19 pandemic also brought with it additional challenges to how the digital infrastructure within the trust works:

  • '111 First' was implemented to allow patients to be booked into appointments in emergency departments.

  • Most support staff worked. This required a rapid deployment of remote access solutions for staff.

  • Non-emergency vehicles were allocated to support 999 operations. These vehicles were equipped with a new mobile data solution. Use of the new mobile data solution ensured compatibility with existing platforms while also allowing new technology to be trialled in live operation.

Dermot Ryan, Director of Frontline Digitisation at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “The team at West Midlands Ambulance Service are demonstrating how digital tools and access to data can help mitigate the challenges faced by the ambulance service - from access to patient records when a crew attends an emergency call, to streamlining vehicle preparation. The trust has driven real transformation of how they deliver services, which is improving the experience for patients and staff.”

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