Emergency system in need of cash

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital is being urged to help fund an ambulance computer system after primary care trusts pulled the financial plug on it. If the £175,000 funding gap cannot be filled by hospitals across East Anglia, the ambulance service will lose a rea

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital is being urged to help fund an ambulance computer system after primary care trusts pulled the financial plug on it.

If the £175,000 funding gap cannot be filled by hospitals across East Anglia, the ambulance service will lose a real-time system that tells them where to take non-life-threatening cases.

The computerised capacity and activity monitoring system (CAMS) tells paramedics which hospital is likely to treat emergencies most quickly, when there is a choice of A&E department.

For example, a casualty on the road network in Huntingdonshire could be taken to Hinchingbrooke, Addenbrooke's in Cambridge or Peterborough District Hospital. CAMS, which has until now been funded by cash-strapped PCTs in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, tells ambulance crews how busy each A&E department is and whether beds are available if patients need to be admitted.

Although the system has been in use for two years, the money is needed to pay for staff to support it and ensure it operates glitch-free, said East of England Ambulance Trust spokesman Matthew Ware.

"It acts as a barometer for bed capacity and hospital activity, and it also tells us who is on the way to which hospital. It tells us where the pressure is building.

Most Read

"We understand that the PCTs are in a parlous financial position and that savings have to be made. But we would be disappointed if it had to go.

"We are still hopeful that we can come to an agreement with the hospitals for funding for a couple of years. By that time the system should be resolved."

CAMS cost £500,000 to develop and had been managed by the three counties' now-defunct emergency care network. The ambulance service would like to see it extended to its new patch, which includes Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.

The East of England Strategic Health Authority said it was "important to have a consistent approach to managing activity across the east of England, and, as roll out of CAMS to other parts of the east of England would have been very costly, and its full potential has yet to be demonstrated, the decision was taken to disband it from April 1, 2007".

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter