NHS England announced the introduction of new system of national ambulance response standards which aims to ensure the most appropriate response is sent to a patient rather than the fastest one.
Following the world’s largest clinical ambulance trial undertaken by Sheffield University, this redesign of the ambulance service standards focuses on ensuring patients get the right care in the appropriate time frame rather than simply ‘stopping the clock’. For the first time response targets will apply to every single patient, not just those in immediate need.
Call handlers will change the way they assess cases and will have slightly more time to decide the most appropriate clinical response. As a result cardiac arrest patients can be identified quicker than ever before, with evidence showing this could save up to 250 lives every year.
In future there will be four categories of call:
- Category one is for calls about people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. These will be responded to in an average time of seven minutes.
- Category two is for emergency calls. These will be responded to in an average time of 18 minutes.
- Category three is for urgent calls. In some instances you may be treated by ambulance staff in your own home. These types of calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 120 minutes.
- Category four is for less urgent calls. In some instances you may be given advice over the telephone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist. These less urgent calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 180 minutes.
The new targets will aim to remove long waits for millions of patients, including reducing lengthy waits for the frail and elderly. For example, sometimes more than one vehicle is sent to a patient to meet response targets, or a rapid response vehicle would be sent, which would ‘stop the clock’ but may not have been able to transport the patient to hospital. These new standards will be rolled out over the coming months.