New technology is allowing emergency services to see patients via a smartphone camera before paramedics are able to arrive at the scene.
The feature works by sending a text message to 999 callers which gives doctors access to their phone camera in order to assess a patient and better deploy the appropriate resources.
The service requires no app to be downloaded, and a live picture and map location is transmitted in just seconds.
It is part of the GoodSam platform, which already links up nearby first responders to 999 call outs.
The technology is being used by the Great North and the Kent, Surrey and Sussex air ambulances, with other services in talks to use the facility.
It is hoped the system will cut down on the deployment of expensive trauma ambulances in situations where they end up not being required.
Neurosurgeon Mark Wilson, who co-founded GoodSam, said: “The great thing about the world today is that everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket which has the most amazing tech built into it – GPS location, video – and by being able to access that we can see a patient instantly and then not only make appropriate decisions about what resources they need but actually provide care before we get there.”
Another feature, which is still in the trial stage, even allows a patient’s pulse to be taken by using just the video stream and analysis of their face.
Dr Richard Lyon, of Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Service, told Sky News having access to vital stats so early into a 999 call could save lives.
“We’re not reliant on waiting for an ambulance crew or a fire crew to arrive on scene and give us a report on what’s happened,” he said.
“Within seconds of that 999 call coming through we’ll be able to hopefully make an assessment of what the nature of the accident is and if we can send the helicopter sooner it means we’re going to get help to our patients much sooner which hopefully is going to save lives.”
It is not just air ambulance services utilising the service.
The humanitarian charity First Aid Africa plan to use the function to provide remote advice in rural Africa, where there is no ambulance service.
It is hoped police and fire services may also adopt the technology.