Hospital hi-tech bed-finder system axed to save money

PUBLISHED: 10:59 15 March 2007 | UPDATED: 12:18 04 May 2010

NEW technology used by paramedics to find hospital beds for emergency patients has been axed to save money. The decision means crews will have to go back to using pen and paper when trying to find empty hospital beds. The internet-based system, which allo

NEW technology used by paramedics to find hospital beds for emergency patients has been axed to save money.

The decision means crews will have to go back to using pen and paper when trying to find empty hospital beds.

The internet-based system, which allows hospital managers to relay the number of spare beds and current waiting times in casualty to ambulance crews via on-board screens, was introduced as a pilot in Cambridgeshire in 2004.

It cost £500,000 to roll it out across the county and Suffolk and Norfolk.

But, following the strategic health authority's merger with Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, there is not enough cash to implement the scheme across the whole region.

Talks are underway between the East of England Strategic Health Authority and the East Anglian Ambulance Trust to try to find the money to keep the service running.

Ambulance Trust spokesman, Matthew Ware, said: "We've got to sit down with the hospitals to see if they will continue to fund it in conjunction with us. If they don't it will go and that would be very disappointing.

"It would mean taking away an innovative system and going back to a pen and paper system, where we have to telephone around the hospitals to find out what space they've got. The current system can tell us all that at the touch of a button."

South East Cambridgeshire MP Jim Paice declared the move to axe the system as "short-sighted".

"This is not only about saving lives and getting treatment as soon as possible; it is about saving resources if there is spare capacity in hospitals.

"This is just another symptom of the horrendous mess of the NHS. I find it impossible to understand how you can double expenditure on the NHS and end up with so many problems."

The computerised capacity and activity monitoring system, thought to cost around £175,000 a year, could be out of action by April 1 unless a settlement is reached.

A spokesman for the East of England Strategic Health Authority said: "To extend the system across the remainder of east of England would have been very costly, and the full potential of the system has yet to be demonstrated. Therefore the decision was taken to cease its use from April 1.

"The removal of the CAMS system will not detract from the ability of acute trusts to implement their existing plans designed to cope with increased periods of demand. Nor will it prevent the East of England Ambulance service from managing their resources effectively.

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