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Older people in Galway to benefit from new ambulance service

 6 members of the National Ambulance Service Galway Pathfinder team standing in front of an ambulance. The ambulance is parked in an ambulance loading bay.



Galway has become the latest area to benefit from the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS) led service Pathfinder.Designed to safely keep older people, who phone 112/999, in their own homes rather than taking them to a hospital emergency department, the service went live in Galway in May.

Pathfinder improves outcomes for older people by providing safe alternative care at home rather than in hospital and is provided in Galway by National Ambulance Service staff working with colleagues from Galway University Hospitals.

Already established in other parts of the country, this collaborative service is currently live in Dublin, Limerick, Tallaght,  Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork, and Letterkenny.

Pathfinder Rapid Response Team

The Pathfinder Rapid Response Team respond to 999/112 calls for older people (65 years and older) in their homes. The older person is assessed by both an advanced paramedic and an occupational therapist/physiotherapist.  Where safe, the team supports the older person at home rather than transporting them to the emergency department, by linking with a wide range of alternative hospital and community services. Pathfinder also operates a follow-up team (physiotherapy and occupational therapy) which provides immediate home-based rehabilitation, equipment provision, and case management in the subsequent days following a 999/112 call.

On average two-thirds of patients seen by Pathfinder following a 999 call have remained at home rather than being brought to the ED.

Robert Morton, Director of the HSE National Ambulance Service, said the expansion of the NAS Pathfinder model is part of a plan to offer different groups of patients alternative options other than presenting to busy emergency departments:

“The National Ambulance Service is very pleased with the outcomes for individual patients being achieved by this service and we are delighted to be working with University Hospital Galway. This approach is improving outcomes by offering safe alternative care pathways for many older people in their own homes. Pathfinder is enabling NAS to connect 999 patients with the increasing range of community services being developed by the HSE.”

Welcoming the introduction of the service to Galway, Chris Kane, General Manager, University Hospital Galway, said the hospital was pleased to be able to offer this service to suitable older people in its catchment area: “We know that the Pathfinder model demonstrates that pre-hospital services can help to safely keep older people, who have phoned 112/99, in their own home rather than transporting them to a hospital ED for assessment.

“Pathfinder aims to reduce congestion in busy EDs and makes for a better environment for patients and staff on the floor whilst improving overall flow through the ED. The service enables increased ED capacity to care for other patients, by supporting this group of complex, frail patients at home.”

JJ McGowan, General Manager, NAS Operations West, added that “patients who present to the ED have non-urgent care needs that could be treated elsewhere. Overall, Pathfinder has shown that it is a safe and acceptable service for older people.”