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RCP issues guidance for staff assessing patients in ambulances

The RCP has produced ethical guidance for medical staff who need to assess patients in waiting ambulances because of pressures on hospitals during the pandemic.

The new guidance, which takes the form of scenarios designed to help clarify the best, most ethical course of action, serves as an appendix to ethical guidance produced and updated last year to deal with wider issues presented by COVID-19.

The assessment and management of patients in waiting ambulances by acute medical teams should occur only if there is no alternative and, unless in an emergency, only following the involvement of hospital management teams. The RCP’s guidance is not intended to normalise such a situation, which should only ever occur in extreme circumstances, such as the pandemic.

While the scenarios will be useful, each patient should be assessed and cared for as an individual with differing needs and the advice of the RCP remains to assess and treat those most in need, regardless of COVID-19 diagnosis, and always to listen to the views of the patient, carer and family.

The new guidance is clear that, while it may often be difficult for families and patients, healthcare staff can make valid and appropriate decisions about treatment for patients who are assessed in an ambulance, when all other measures to prevent this have been exhausted.