London Ambulance Services is offering a one-off bonus of £250 to control-room staff to encourage them to manage lower priority calls more appropriately by directing callers to a different service, such as a GP or NHS Direct.
In 2012, more than 200,000 of the 1.6 million calls received by the service were referred to its clinical telephone advice team. Of these, 141,000 were not sent an ambulance.
The incentive scheme applies to the management of the calls referred to the clinical telephone team.
Paul Woodrow, director of service delivery at the London Ambulance Service, said: “Demand on our service continues to rise, and in the last year we have attended 14% more patients with life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
“Traditionally, when people with minor illnesses and injuries call 999, we have sent them an ambulance. We are no longer doing this because these patients do not need to be treated by an ambulance crew and they don’t require hospital treatment. We need our medics to be available to respond quickly to patients in life-threatening situations or with serious injuries.
“We triage all 999 calls. Patients in a life-threatening condition will get a fast response. Patients with a minor illness or injury get a second call from a clinician who further assesses their condition. Once a patient has been clinically assessed as not needing an emergency response, we refer them to NHS Direct, another healthcare provider or give them advice over the phone.
“The incentive scheme is to encourage staff to manage low priority calls more appropriately, so that people who call us with conditions like coughs, colds and splinters are not sent an ambulance response.”