Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust was formed on 1st July 2006 when the county’s three former services merged, and serves more than 5 million people across 6,000 square miles of varied terrain from isolated moors and dales to urban areas, coastline and inner cities. The trust has 62 ambulance stations served by two A&E 999 Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) in York and Wakefield.
Staff at the 999 EOCs handle all of the emergency calls and deploy the most appropriate response, as well as handling calls diverted from GP surgeries when they are closed across some Primary Care Trusts. The centres typically receive over 795,000 emergency calls a year, resulting in a daily average of over 2,180.
With the two EOC sites stationed thirty miles apart, and housing three separate functions – call handling, dispatchers, and clinicians – information sharing had become a challenge. When you add in the inherent pressures of an emergency environment with critical time constraints, the trust needed a technology solution that would guarantee the highest level of patient care.
Prior to the installation of the new video wall and individual displays, the trust had a series of basic switcher video screens in situ within the rooms. However, these screens lacked the support and development needed to keep up with the fast paced environment and could not be manipulated without costly call outs or specialist technical knowledge. As a result, the trust made a strategic choice to procure new technology that would be fit for purpose, easy to use and crucially easy to manipulate.
Commenting on the upgrade of the system, Adnan Zahid, Project and Improvement Manager at Yorkshire Ambulance explains, “Bringing real time information to all personnel in the EOC is a critical function of the emergency control centre. We had been dissatisfied with our video screens for some time but had yet to find the right supplier and the right technology to meet our specialist needs.
Our EOCs consist of a number of different disciplines, from call handlers to dispatchers and clinicians, and technology is key to keeping all staff abreast of fast-moving incidents. If the technology isn’t working, they can’t do their jobs.”
After submitting an invitation to quote through the NHS North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative framework, Yorkshire Ambulance Service chose Stone Group, in partnership with PSCo, to install a series of dynamic video walls in the EOC and training room at the Wakefield site. These screens enable staff to manipulate each section and put different content in each portion of the wall.
This could be anything from news feeds, to information about a major incident, to the number of ambulances dispatched, or management and staff information. The screens can convey all of this content in different sectors of the wall, which may then be manipulated for more relevant information to be streamed to the staff.
Adnan Zahid commented, “We needed a system that would transform information sharing across the trust, that was reliable, easy to use and – importantly within this economic climate – low on power usage.
As an IT team we have also been able to devolve nearly all the running of the system to the EOC Duty Manager, because the VuWall2 Pro control software makes them so easy to manipulate. This allows us to pool our resources into maintaining and upgrading the Trust’s other IT systems.”
It was important that the installation went smoothly, minimising the level of disruption to the functionality of the EOC and impact on patient care. Stone undertook a full audit prior to the arrival of the technology on-site and completed the installation ahead of schedule, also including an adoption package that encompassed end-user and administrator training.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service also benefit from an ongoing maintenance contract serviced by PSCo engineers, giving 3 years on-site next business day support. This gives the Trust peace of mind that services will continue in the event of a technical challenge.
Speaking about using the walls, Lisa Taylor, Manager at Yorkshire Ambulance Service commented, “We are now able to dynamically alter and switch the appearance and information on the screens, in any way we like. Although both the video wall and individual displays are in fixed positions, we can split the screens into four or six sections to accommodate changes during our working day.
We have two screens in our small training room on the Wakefield site – these screens ordinarily display day-to-day information useful for training and staff; however, if we have a large scale incident we can alter the room use and the screens can, for example, stream CCTV or input from a desktop computer within the main room. The solution is perfect in a fast paced, ever changing emergency environment such as this.”
This new way of working also provides a link between the Wakefield and York sites. Using a VNT link, staff can display and see the same information meaning that every staff member has the critical information they need, regardless of which location they are in.
“We have recently been working on a new project to introduce key words to help identify critical care patients, such as those having cardiac arrests and trouble breathing”, said Carrie Whitham, Head of Service Delivery at Yorkshire Ambulance. “The VuWall2 software has enabled us to dynamically update the videowall and individual displays with the key words so that the call handlers can see and use these key words to enable them to dispatch the most appropriate care. This is just one of numerous new initiatives we are able to introduce now that we have the technology to support it.”
This change is also supporting staff management at the trust. Before the upgrade, duty managers would have to physically go and speak to every staff member to provide updates. Now the information is on the screen for everyone to see.
“Mental health nurses are only on at certain times of the day”, said Lisa Taylor. “If a call handler receives a call regarding a member of the public suffering from mental illness, they can see in real time if the mental health nurse is on duty using the wall board. The video wall displays their duty time and the extension telephone number to everyone in the room allowing staff to transfer calls straight into the clinical pathway, enabling patients to get better care, quicker.”
As a trust, one of the most valuable aspects to the solution was the service and advice we were given, not just before installation, but during and afterwards. Stone really understood our unique needs and specified a solution that has become an invaluable part of the centre.
I now struggle to see how we ever managed without them.