Managing demand for ambulance services

A report released today by the Acting Auditor-General of New South Wales, Ian Goodwin, found that NSW Ambulance has introduced several initiatives over the past decade to better manage the number of unnecessary ambulance responses and transports to hospital emergency departments. However, there is no overall strategy to guide the development of these initiatives nor do NSW Ambulance's data systems properly monitor their impact. As a result, the Audit Office was unable to assess whether NSW Ambulance's approach to managing demand is improving the efficiency of ambulance services.

Individual initiatives lack clear goals and performance targets, with insufficient organisational resources allocated to support their implementation. Adding to this, there are weaknesses in NSW Ambulance's use of staff performance and development systems and most paramedics do not have access to mobile technology.

There is also relatively little evidence of NSW Ambulance collaborating with other parts of the health system on demand management initiatives. Success relies heavily on effective working relationships with other parts of the health system, including local health districts and providers of primary healthcare such as general practitioners.

'Increasing demand is a key issue for NSW Ambulance because demand has grown in recent years and continued growth is expected', said the Acting Auditor-General of New South Wales, Ian Goodwin. 'More focus is needed to guide demand management initiatives and ensure NSW Ambulance can meet future increases in demand.'

This report makes five recommendations that will help NSW Ambulance develop a more strategic and integrated approach to the way it manages the growing demand for its services.

Further information

Barry Underwood, Director, Office of the Auditor-General, on 0403 073 664 and email