HRB Open Research (Jan 2021)
Rapid response and learning for later: establishing high quality information networks and evaluation frameworks for the National Ambulance Service response to COVID-19 – the ENCORE COVID Project Protocol [version 2; peer review: 2 approved]
Background: The National Ambulance Service (NAS) is at the forefront of Ireland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As directed in Ireland’s National Action Plan, NAS significantly expanded prehospital services, including provision of a novel COVID-19 testing service. Additionally, other health services rely on NAS’s capacity to assess, transport and/or treat COVID-19 patients. In a climate of innovation and adaptation, NAS needs to learn from international ambulance services and share experience. Evaluation of the NAS response to COVID-19 is required to facilitate evidence-based planning for subsequent waves or future pandemics, and to identify innovative practice for mainstreaming into routine service provision. Aims: This project aims to test the utility of novel information networks and develop a tool that is tailored to evaluating pandemic-imposed change in an emergency medical service. Methods: The first aim will be to introduce and measure the impact of ambulance-specific research and information updates for NAS. Secondly, the usefulness to members of an international network of senior ambulance and research personnel (‘AMBULANCE+COVID19’ network), and the clarity and feasibility of a short-survey instrument, the Emergency Medical Services Five Question Survey (EMS-5QS), will be assessed. Finally, an evaluation framework for assessing pandemic-imposed change will be developed to enable NAS determine innovations: (1) for reactivation in another wave or new pandemic; (2) to be sustained as part of routine service. The framework will be developed in collaboration with NAS and the National Quality Improvement Team. The Research Team includes expertise from academia, ambulance services and the National Public Health Emergency Team. Conclusions: This project will facilitate the prompt introduction of information sharing processes to an emergency medical service and assess the impact of those processes. By developing a process for evaluating pandemic-imposed change in NAS, this project will add to the toolbox for future pandemic planning in emergency medical services internationally.