North East Ambulance Service sees success in saving lives on Northumberland cardiac arrest emergencies

Efforts by the North East Ambulance Service to improve cardiac arrest survival rates are starting to bear fruit, bosses have said.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 5:11 pm
The North East Air Ambulance has seen success in its efforts to improve survival rates for cardiac arrest casualties

Improving cardiac arrest care and outcomes was one of three quality priorities that the service (NEAS) had in 2019-20.

A range of new initiatives have been developed, including the use of smart technologies to alert the likes of community first responders to a nearby cardiac arrest.

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Plus the rollout of community public access defibrillators has continued, with Northumberland having the most across the NEAS patch.

At the end of the 2018-19, there were 230 in the county, out of 541 across the North East, which increased to 282 by January 2020, from a total of 742.

And figures presented to the Tuesday, December 1, meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee show that these efforts are starting to have an impact on outcomes.

The main measure used to monitor performance is return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC), when a patient’s heart starts beating again and they start breathing again.

For all NEAS patients, the ROSC percentage improved in 2019-20, following a previous improvement in 2018-19, with close to 35% of resuscitations being successful.

For patients where the cardiac arrest is witnessed, known as Utstein – as opposed to cases where someone may have had a heart attack in bed at night alone and it is some time before someone finds them, for example – again there has been a slight improvement in recent years, with the ROSC percentage at 60% for 2019-20.

However, there have been consecutive annual falls in the survival to discharge from hospital rates (Utstein), which fell to under 35% in 2019-20 from more than 45% two years before.

This work on cardiac arrests remains one of the trust’s quality priorities for 2020-21, alongside managing deteriorating patients via the control room plus end-of-life care and a peaceful death.

The other two priorities last year were improving care and the experience for people with mental-health needs and creating a ‘just culture’ within the organisation to help improve patient safety.

The annual report also provides data on ambulance response times, with the figures for NEAS painting a similar mixed picture to the previous year.

Once again in 2019-20, NEAS was the fastest ambulance service in the country for its response to category 1 cases – time-critical, life-threatening events.

Its average response time was six minutes 39 seconds, against the target of seven minutes, and its response time for 90% of cases was 11:22, with the target being 15 minutes.

However, it missed the targets for category two (potentially serious problems), category three (urgent problems, not immediately life-threatening) and non-urgent category four cases, quite significantly in relation to the first two, with all three representing a worse performance than the previous year.

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