System flags up heart attacks from 999 calls


New research has shown that a standard NHS system used to triage 999 calls is identifying 75% of heart attacks over the phone, saving vital minutes, and with improvements could detect even more.

Professor Charles Deakin from the NIHR Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit has shown that the ‘NHS Pathways’ triage system can correctly identify around 75% of 999 calls relating to heart attacks based on information  gathered during those calls.

Saving lives

More than 30,000 heart attacks outside of hospital take place in the UK each year, with a survival rate of less than one in 10. The sooner a person is treated, the more likely they are to survive, making shorter response times a key goal.

NHS Pathways is a system for triaging 999 calls, now used by six of the 12 UK ambulance services covering a population of 20 million. Ensuring that NHS Pathways works effectively to identify whether a person is having a heart attack will help get urgent medical attention as quickly as possible.

Improving the service

Working closely with the South Central Ambulance Service, Deakin cross-checked all ‘999’ emergency calls over a 12 month period flagged as a heart attack by the system with reports from the ambulance crew. The results are published in the journal Heart.

Of the 3119 heart attacks identified by the ambulance crew, NHS Pathways correctly identified 2366, enabling the patients to receive CPR from a bystander and an ambulance to be sent out. 

While it will never be possible to correctly diagnose 100% of patients over the phone, the researchers have identified improvements that could potentially save a further 7500 lives each year. 

Posted on Monday 9 January 2017