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ADOPTED: Geospatial mapping of emergency calls from older adults to ambulance services in the South Central region, with a focus on people living with dementia: a feasibility study.

Lead: Dr Carole Fogg, Senior Research Fellow, University of Southampton

Team: Dr Dianna Smith, University of Southampton, Professor Bronagh Walsh, University of Southampton.

Collaborators: Phil King – Senior Business Analyst, South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS)

Vivienne Parsons – Specialist Business Analyst, SCAS

Simon Mortimore – Assistant Director of Business Intelligence, SCAS

Martina Brown – Research Manager, SCAS (and additional members of the research team – Helen Pocock – Senior Research Paramedic, Chloe Lofthouse-Jones – Education Lead, Patryk Jadzinski – Paramedic/Senior Lecturer)

Nic Dunbar – Head of Community First Responder Operations, SCAS (and Operational Leads David Hamer and Jack Ansell)

Starts: 13th March 2023

Ends: 31st July 2023


What is the project about?

This is a new project that will explore the feasibility of using geospatial techniques to map emergency 999 calls from older adults, including those living with dementia.


What is the rationale for this proposal?

NHS ambulance services are under intense pressure to deliver timely and safe care. Immediately life-threatening conditions have to be prioritised. Older people with falls and symptoms related to long-term chronic conditions with lower category calls may experience long delays before an ambulance arrives. Such patients often have recurring needs for emergency care due to lack of alternative care pathways or long waits for social care assessments. These patients may also have dementia, putting them at greater risk of clinical deterioration whilst waiting for their needs to be met.


Geospatial projects are of particular interest to emergency services, as a single service covers a wide geographical area and a dispersed population. Currently SCAS uses mapping to identify clusters of self-harm, suicide attempts and other trauma incidents. Impacts of geospatial projects in other ambulance services include improving cardiac arrest response times and identifying vulnerable communities during Covid-19.


Adults aged ≥65 represent a large proportion of SCAS demand (2022: 17% of 111 calls, 48% (21,200 per month) of 999 calls), with around 14% living with dementia [3]. Better information on the location and outcomes of these calls through applying geospatial techniques can shape service provision to meet population needs, improve patient experience and outcomes, and enable existing resources to be used to best effect.


What are we currently doing?

Applicant CF is leading a project collaborating with South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) to systematise recording of dementia on the ambulance electronic patient record. Ambulance staff are now able to record data about dementia in a specific place, and initial analyses show around 70 entries daily across the South Central region (November 2022). Improved recording of dementia in ambulance data provides an opportunity to explore factors associated with service demand related to dementia, such as deprivation, and to inform configuration of emergency and associated services to meet older people’s care needs more generally. These may include attendance by Community First Responders (CFRs) with additional training regarding dementia, or referral to a social care line to organise care for older people.


What are the next steps?

We propose to explore the feasibility of using geospatial data to map low category calls to older adults (aged ≥65), including a subgroup of those with dementia. Data on older adults in patients with emergency 999 calls will enable understanding of understand areas of greatest need and identify areas of inequality. Geospatial mapping will also highlight areas in which there are high frequencies of calls so that multi-sector appropriately-trained resources may be focussed in particular geographical areas. Initial results can be used to design prospective studies of care models which are informed by, and evaluated using, geospatial data.


    How will we achieve this?


    Project Objectives:

1.     Test feasibility and methods of data specification, extraction and aggregation from the SCAS data warehouse.

2.     Produce geospatial maps representing the extracted data to identify areas of highest demand, or where Community First Responders and specialist frailty cars may be most needed, and with which equipment.

3.     Present the data to stakeholders and identify priorities for follow-on research grant(s).


    Project Methods:

    We will meet the objectives by:

1.     Working with the SCAS Business Intelligence (BI) team to understand and define data items for specification for a combination of geospatial, administrative (interval between call time and attendance, time on scene), sociodemographic and clinical (main reason for call, record of dementia in patient record following attendance) data for low acuity calls (category 3 and 4) for people aged ≥65 over a one year period.

2.     Using ArcGIS software to produce new choropleth maps (Lower Super Output Area [LSOA] scale in the SCAS region (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire) of the frequency of 999 calls and ambulance attendances overall and categorised by sub-groups, e.g. patients presenting with falls /  with dementia / experiencing a ‘long wait’. Using Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Census data to estimate the proportion of the population of highest risk for frailty and falls (age, ill health, living alone).

Holding at least one stakeholder meeting, involving SCAS staff, CFRs, the public, representatives from services providing urgent care to older people in the community (e.g. specialist frailty cars, social care, general practitioners, fire and police services) to share results, identify immediate impacts and agree areas for further research.

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