A new emergency response vehicle being trialled by St John in Hamilton is already proving worthwhile after just three weeks.
The ten week Sierra Trial is attempting to reduce the number of callouts by frontline ambulance vehicles to lower acuity (non-urgent) work.
''The main aim is to reduce that lower acuity work and, where possible, work with patients in the community to ensure the best clinical pathway is followed specifically for their needs,'' acting district operations manager Adrian Gavin said.
''It may mean that they are treated in the home, or we may work with that patient's GP or medical centre as the best option for care right through to arranging transport to hospital if required.''
Apart from stretchers and back-boards the rapid response stationwagon is equipped with everything a frontline ambulance would carry. Mr Gavin said that in cases of emergency, the vehicle would attend a callout.
''Absolutely,'' he said. ''If it was the closest vehicle to an incident it would attend.''
The rapid response unit is operational from 8am to 8pm seven days a week and is staffed by two intensive care paramedics (ICPs) on a four on, four off roster.
ICP Craig Scott said the vehicle was already attending between six and seven callouts on average per day.
''I'm really enjoying it,'' he said. ''A lot of people are appreciating the different approach to healthcare and the various options available to them.''
Mr Gavin said the three week trial was already having a positive impact on the number of calls attended by frontline ambulance crews who were now able to take rostered meal breaks thanks to the extra support offered by the Sierra trial.
While it was too early to say whether the trial would reduce the record number of emergency department admissions experienced in recent years, Mr Gavin said the signs were looking good.
''It's definitely working well,'' he said. ''We would expect it to have an even bigger impact during the winter when we experience that spike in winter ailments, but so far so good.''