ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

More than 4 in 5 calls to 999 are not life-threatening, say almost half of NHS ambulance services

For nearly half (45%) of NHS ambulance trusts, more than four in five calls are non-urgent or life-threatening, finds new research from Five9 through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. 

The figures come as ambulance services face unprecedented pressure with record-high response times and 12.5 million calls in the year from May 2021. Out of eleven of the fourteen UK Ambulance Service Trusts that responded, 91% are not currently using any artificial intelligence (AI) for call handling, meaning that most calls are operated manually. Almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents currently have no plans to implement AI technologies to help deal with the burgeoning number of calls to ambulance services. 

Only two trusts plan to implement AI in the next twelve months, while a further two plan to adopt AI technologies to support call prioritisation in the next three to five years. AI technologies are already helping health services across the world manage high call volumes by identifying and screening non-urgent contacts.  

“Today’s research suggests ambulance call handling staff are being flooded by non-urgent calls, taking precious time away from them to attend to patients who are most in need of critical care. As the NHS deals with unprecedented demand that shows little sign of abating, it must find new ways to facilitate faster emergency response times for the public,” says Brian Atkinson, General Manager and Vice President EMEA at Five9. 

“It shows the untapped potential of AI to help handle high call volumes and collect information to pass on to call handling staff. As winter flu season looms and Covid cases will likely soar again, now is the time for the NHS to invest in technologies like conversational AI to help alleviate extreme pressures on staff while streamlining costs. This is not only about ensuring an ambulance service that is fit for purpose, but about supporting front line staff to deliver their best, while also maintaining citizens’ trust in this most vital of public services,” Brian continued. 

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