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  • By Dr Lucy Morgan, Lancaster University Management School
  • In Blog
  • Posted 21/07/2020

Lancaster University Management School use WITNESS to investigate the provision of enhanced emergency health care at night by North West Air Ambulance (NWAA). In this guest blog, Dr Lucy Morgan explains the challenges faced by NWAA and how predictive simulation is being used to model future operational decisions.

NWAA are a charity funded organisation that provide enhanced emergency healthcare interventions throughout the Northwest of England. With advanced medical expertise and specialist equipment, they effectively bring A&E to the scene of an emergency. They can also facilitate the rapid conveyance of patients to hospital when required. At present the charity has six assets, three air ambulances (helicopters) and three rapid response vehicles (RRVs) and attend over 2,000 missions each year.

Dr Lucy Morgan, Dr Roger Brooks and Dr Dave Worthington, a team of operational researchers from Lancaster University Management School, constructed and validated a predictive simulation model of the current NWAA operational system using data from the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) database. This model was then used to consider the prospective performance of a single air ambulance vs. a single rapid response vehicle during the hours of darkness. Data from the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) was used to infer the number of missions NWAA might expect to see during these periods. NWAA were involved throughout the modelling process, from conceptual model building to the generation of experimental scenarios.

At present NWAA helicopters do not have the capability to fly at night. The investigation was therefore a prospective study to illustrate to NWAA the number of incidents they could expect to attend if they were to invest in a new asset with this capability. It would also compare this performance to the provision possible with one of their current rapid response vehicles. During the winter months, shorter daylight hours limit the hours of enhanced emergency healthcare NWAA can provide. One investigation therefore considered the impact of NWAA working 8AM-8PM (as they do in the summer) all year round.

Following this initial investigation, NWAA trialled missions during the hours of darkness using a rapid response vehicle. Although the trial was cut short due to the change in demand caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, initial indications supported the findings of the investigation. A longer trial using a rapid response vehicle during the winter months of 2020 is currently under consideration by NWAA. This would see a health care team on duty up until 8PM throughout the year, regardless of the levels of light. Lancaster University will continue to work with NWAA to analyse the results of this trail and to consider further operational decisions, such as the optimal location of the rapid response vehicle.

"By creating a predictive simulation model, we hope to enable NWAA to respond to more emergency situations in the future, I would to thank Lanner for enabling us to use WITNESS throughout the project, and for their support and interest in this work." - Dr Lucy Morgan


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