Following the largest clinical ambulance trials in the world, NHS England is to implement new ambulance standards across the country.
The new system will update a decades old measurement of ambulance performance and provide a strong foundation for the future.
What are the changes?
The new standards will start to be measured and published in autumn – expected to be a date in October - although the changes required to meet them will take longer to implement. The changes focus on making sure the best, high quality, most appropriate response is provided for each patient first time.
Historically ambulance services are allowed up to 60 seconds from receiving a call to sending a vehicle. The evidence shows that this isn’t long enough.
Call handlers will be given more time to assess 999 calls that are not immediately life-threatening, which will enable them to identify patients’ needs better and send the most appropriate response.
One of the biggest differences will be the measure of all 999 calls. Instead of counting the 75% of incidents which are achieved within eight minutes, the new standards will set an average time for all calls within each category.
The categories are also changing:
· Category 1 is for calls about people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. These will be responded to in an average time of seven minutes.
· Category 2 is for emergency calls. These will be responded to in an average time of 18 minutes.
· Category 3 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 4 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 overhaul follows calls from paramedics for the modernisation of a service developed and introduced in 1974, as well as criticism of the current system from the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Select Committee.
The new system is backed by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Stroke Association and the British Heart Foundation amongst others.
Welcoming the announcement, NEAS chief operating officer Paul Liversidge said: “The way we operate needed to change to respond to these modern-days demands and target our resources to the patients who need them. More time to triage 999 calls and fewer vehicle stand-downs should also reduce stress all round as well.”