An innovative trial which could help save lives, cut costs and reduce the amount of time patients stay in hospital will be rolled out in Staffordshire.
Launched by West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) and the University of Sheffield, the 'ACUTE' trial, which stands for Ambulance CPAP: Use, Treatment effect and Economics, looks at patients who suffer from life threatening acute respiratory failure, which often results in patients spending long periods of time in hospital, frequently in intensive care.
The scheme, which will involve ambulance crews in Staffordshire and Birmingham, will see paramedics use a CPAP device (continuous positive airway pressure), which delivers oxygen under increased pressure through a close-fitting facemask effectively forcing oxygen into the lungs. This allows the oxygen to be taken into the blood stream and also allows carbon dioxide to be released.
Andy Rosser, WMAS lead research paramedic, said: "We know that CPAP is used very effectively in hospitals. Small studies outside of the UK suggest that using CPAP in an ambulance may save more lives, particularly where the patient is in a more rural location and has further to travel to hospital. Where CPAP is used, the patient would start to receive treatment sooner, rather than waiting until they arrive in hospital."
Research paramedic, Imogen Gunson, added: "The mask and straps may not be pretty on the eye, but patients report that it can make a big difference as to how they feel and also how easily they can breathe."
This pilot study will use 120 people, half of which will receive CPAP while the other half will be treated with standard oxygen therapy. All patients will then undergo normal hospital treatment and will be followed up for a month to see if CPAP is feasible, acceptable and cost-effective.
Staffordshire historically has higher rates of respiratory disease and the news will be welcomed by patients with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and particularly serious cases of pneumonia where victims struggle to breathe.
As many as one in eight patients will die from the condition which is brought on when heart or lung disease suddenly develops or worsens and leads to patients unable to maintain oxygen levels in the blood. These patients are currently treated by ambulance staff who provide oxygen delivered at normal pressure through a loose fitting mask.
Research paramedic, Josh Miller, said: "What we want to establish is whether using CPAP in a pre-hospital setting will make a difference to a patient’s survival and reduce hospital stays at the same time. It has the potential to save many lives."