A new 5 year strategy to improve the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service has been introduced.

The new strategy, unveiled last week at a board meeting of the Isle of Wight’s NHS Trust, sees the island’s current partnership with the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) evolving to provide the islanders with the best possible and appropriate Answer to offer.

Nikki Turner, the Trust’s director of transformation, said the Trust’s principles, work programs and visions have been aligned to explore new roles and ways of working.

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A key part of the strategy is a different approach to answering calls so that non-emergency calls can be handled through other emergency paths if necessary. This will free up the island’s limited resources for ambulance and ensure that patients receive the right treatment with the most relevant specialists in the right place.

Mark Ainsworth, SCAS chief of operations, said on the mainland they found they sent fewer ambulances on calls but received positive feedback from patients. For example, if a patient falls at home, it might be better to send a physical therapist instead of an ambulance crew.

This is what the Isle of Wight NHS Trust has been working on as part of its “Think 111 first” campaign, where an ambulance may not be the answer to people’s demands.

Joe Smyth, the trust’s chief operating officer, said the 111 initiative has increased the number of patients admitted to the St. Mary’s emergency treatment center ten-fold since the coronavirus pandemic began. About 700 patients have now spoken to 111.

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Mr Smyth said more and more resources were needed for ambulance service on the island – the smallest in the country – and that only two people need to get sick at night to keep a third of the ambulance fleet out of service.

Another challenge for the rescue service is the geographic location, which has sometimes led to longer response times. To remedy the problem, the new strategy would try to connect callers either by phone or digitally, if necessary, so that less travel is required.

Overall, the vision of the strategy is “high quality, compassionate care that has a positive impact on our island community”.