“Sweeping improvements” are in the works for England’s ambulance service. The changes unveiled by UK Health Minister Lord Warner “will revolutionize the way in which ambulances deliver care across the country and build on the significant advances already made over recent years,” the Department of Health said.

Warner said the “fundamental change” involves “using ambulance services to take healthcare to the patient, to become a mobile healthcare system.”

While continuing to make sure that the ambulance services “are able to respond to life-threatening emergencies as quickly as possible,” he said, “at the same time we are going to extend the role of ambulances and ambulance staff, so that they can not only be there in an emergency, but be there at other times to help people maintain their health.”

Warner said the Department of Health believes that more than a million patients a year could avoid being taken to Accident & Emergency (A&E) by this new approach.

The changes have been recommended in a strategic review of National Health Service (NHS) ambulance services led by Peter Bradley, national ambulance adviser and chief executive of the London Ambulance Service NHS trust. The Department of Health invited Bradley to become National Ambulance Adviser in May 2004 and to lead a strategic review of NHS ambulance services in England.

In conducting the review, Bradley was supported by a stakeholder reference group consisting of ambulance trust chief executives, representatives of other NHS organizations and clinicians.

Among the changes that can be expected over the next five years:

Faster response times. Improved technology and information, reorganization of ambulance trusts and call centers, and streamlining of response time targets and call categories will mean that ambulances can concentrate on reaching the most urgent cases more quickly.

Better advice over the phone. Non-urgent callers to 999 will be offered more advice over the phone and provided with the most appropriate local service that best meets their needs. That could be a referral to general practitioner services, in or out of hours, or an emergency nurse service.

More care in the home. Ambulance staff will be trained and equipped to carry out and interpret more diagnostic tests and undertake basic procedures in the home. They will also be able to refer patients to social care services, directly admit patients to specialist units, and prescribe a wider range of medications.

More treatment at the scene. More patients with urgent, but not life-threatening, conditions will be treated at home rather than being taken to hospital. This could benefit, for example, older people who have had a fall and suffered cuts, bruises or other minor injuries and would prefer not to leave their home for treatment.

Home visits for better health. Ambulance staff will undertake routine assessments of patients with long-term conditions in their homes, in partnership with GP and nursing teams.

The number of Emergency Care Practitioners (ECPs) across the country will be increased. ECPs are a new type of health professional, largely but not exclusively paramedics with extended training. They have greater assessment and examination skills and more training for the treatment of minor injuries and illnesses. ECPs are also trained in the management of long-term conditions.

More than 600 ECPs currently are working in England, with the number to be “significantly increased” to help deliver the changes in the ambulance service.

Warner said that under the ambulance improvement plan, “we will also streamline the number of ambulance trusts and improve efficiency, for example, through better procurement. This will mean we can save resources and channel them into frontline services.”

Dutch contract lab bought by Millipore

Millipore (Billerica, Massachusetts) has completed the acquisition of MicroSafe BV (Leiden, the Netherlands), a contract laboratory that develops assays and provides a range of testing services to help European biotech and pharmaceutical customers monitor for quality and compliance in the drug manufacturing process.

The deal was valued at about $9.3 million.

Martin Madaus, Millipore chairman, president and CEO, said, “MicroSafe . . . [has] a loyal client base and the expertise that will help us expand the scope of service we offer to our biotech and pharmaceutical customers, particularly in the area of virus and mycoplasma testing. Their application knowledge will also help us accelerate development of products and systems for rapid process monitoring.”

MicroSafe Managing Director Fathia Methnani said, “With Millipore’s market presence in Europe and scientists and applications specialists in the field we will be able to bring our services to more clients and we’ll be able to expand those service offerings.” She will continue to direct operations of MicroSafe, which has about 30 employees and annual revenues of some $4 million.

Millipore is a provider of bioprocess and bioscience products and services. It employs about 4,500 worldwide, with revenues of $883 million in 2004.

Air Liquide sells U.S. homecare unit

Air Liquide Sante (Paris), a subsidiary of the Air Liquide Group, which provides medical gases to hospitals and healthcare institutions as well as respiratory care to patients in their home, has decided to sell the U.S.-based homecare division of Air Liquide Healthcare America to Apria Healthcare (Costa Mesa, California).

The U.S. homecare unit, which operates under the VitalAire name, had sales of about $20 million in 2004.

“Air Liquide Healthcare will continue to focus on the fast-growing markets where it has established solid positions. We will pursue our development, particularly on the basis of our European activities, and will consider, in large markets including the U.S., any attractive opportunity which would allow us to achieve critical mass,” said Jean-Marc de Royere, senior vice president, health and specialty chemicals, and a member of Air Liquide’s executive committee.

No Comments