Coronavirus: Expansion of mobile emergency care service frees up hospital beds and ambulances amid crisis

The Physician Response Unit is now operating two cars and extended hours. Picture: London’s Air Ambu

The Physician Response Unit is now operating two cars and extended hours. Picture: Londons Air Ambulance - Credit: Archant

A specialist service “taking the emergency department to the patient” and reducing uncessary hospital trips is expanding, providing vital support to London’s Covid-19 response.

The Physician Response Unit (PRU) - expert teams of emergency medics in rapid response cars across Newham, Tower Hamlets and north east London - is now operating with two cars and extended hours from 8.30am to 11pm every day.

The PRU is staffed by a senior emergency medicine doctor and an ambulance clinician, and carries advanced medication, equipment and treatments usually only found in hospital.

It responds to 999 calls, treating patients in their homes who might otherwise have needed to be taken to hospital by ambulance.

The service is a collaboration between London’s Air Ambulance, the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and Barts Health NHS Trust.

Barts Health emergency medicine consultant and PRU clinical lead Dr Tony Joy said: “By taking the emergency department to the patient in their home we can ensure they get the right care fast, while also reducing risk and keeping hospital beds free for those who really need them.

“The launch of a second car is a huge step forward for the PRU, allowing us to cover more hours of the day, delivering safe and effective emergency care in the community at this extremely challenging time.

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“While Londoners are responding to advice on staying at home, they should still seek NHS medical help when they need it.”

In response to the coronavirus crisis, the PRU has established new ways to provide care for more patients and help the NHS cope under unprecedented pressure.

This includes enabling early discharge of patients from emergency departments to be visited at home rather than referred for inpatient care.

PRU teams can also visit high-risk people, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy, to carry out advanced assessments and tests that would otherwise need to be done at a hospital.

Inpatient wards can also discharge patients who would normally have to stay in hospital to be reviewed by the PRU at home.

Palliative care teams can arrange for the PRU to visit and provide community review or clinical consultation.

The PRU is also helping LAS with transfers of Covid-19 patients to the Nightingale Hospital.