Four of England’s ambulance services have begun the roll out of new response times announced earlier this year.
NHS England state that most patients do not require an 'emergency' eight minute response time and say the new targets will allow for a more in-depth assessment of patients by call handlers.
Under the new system early recognition of life-threatening conditions, particularly cardiac arrest, will increase and a new set of pre-triage questions will identify those patients in need of the fastest response time.
So, in future there will be four categories of call.
- Category 1 – Calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries
- Category 2 – Emergency calls
- Category 3 – Urgent calls
- Category 4 – Less urgent calls
The new targets will aim to reach 'life-threatening' emergencies within 7 minutes of the initial 999 call.
According to NHS England the new targets will free up more vehicles and staff to respond to real emergencies.
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s National Medical Director, who commissioned the Ambulance Response Programme in 2015, said;
“Patients across the country deserve to benefit from the significant improvements seen in the trial areas, from ambulances reaching cardiac arrests in London 30 seconds faster to the one minute improvement on stroke responses in the West Midlands. These changes, together with ambitious new clinical standards for heart attack and stroke patients, will end the culture of ‘hitting the target but missing the point.’ They will refocus the service on what actually counts: outcomes for patients.”
The Ambulance Response Programme (ARP) was approved by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in July.