A pilot is currently underway to see if adding extra time for triaging a call leads to better patient care.
Currently, ambulance services are allowed 60 seconds before the clock starts to decide what the right course of action is for that individual patient, which sometimes leads to ambulances being dispatched unnecessarily.
In light of the unprecedented increase in demand for ambulance services over the recent months, Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, asked NHS England to consider whether there were any changes which could be brought forward quickly to help ambulance services maintain, and even improve, clinical outcomes for patients.
Following recommendations from Prof Keith Willett, the National Director for Acute Care at NHS England, two pilots began in February allowing call handlers up to a maximum of 120 seconds for assessment before the clock starts for all 999 calls except those calls which are immediately life-threatening, which are classed as Red 1 calls.
A small number of potentially life threatening conditions, such as overdoses and certain types of gunshot wounds, will also be upgraded from the Red 2 category into the Red 1 category so they receive a faster response.
The pilots are taking place at South West Ambulance Service NHS Trust and London Ambulance Service NHS Trust – one running the NHS Pathways triage system and one running the Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System.
Ambulance targets for North East Ambulance Service are currently unaffected by the pilot.