16th July 2017

Patients Benefit From New ‘Ambulance Response Programme’

Patients Benefit From New ‘Ambulance Response Programme’


On 13th July 2017, the National Health Service (NHS) England has announced a new set of performance targets for the ambulance service that will apply to every single 999 calls for the first time.

The new Ambulance Response Programme focuses on ensuring patients get rapid life-changing care rather than simply “stopping the clock”. The new programme will be rolled out over the coming months and are designed to ensure that the most suitable high-quality response is delivered to every patient in an appropriate clinical timeframe.

According to the NHS England, the new system could save 250 lives per year, and put an end to the “hidden waits” that some patients, including the frail and elderly, are put through. The new system is backed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, the Stroke Association and the British Heart Foundation amongst others.

Now, call handlers will change the way they assess cases and have slightly more time to decide the most appropriate clinical response, meaning that cardiac arrest patients can be identified quicker.

For the first time response targets will apply to every single patient, not just those in immediate need. 

So, in future there will be four categories of call, designed to ensure the best and most appropriate response gets to each patient first time.

  • Category 1 is for calls about patients who are suffering with life-threatening conditions. These will be responded to in an average time of 7 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. These will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 120 minutes.
  • Category 4 is for less urgent calls.These less urgent calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 180 minutes.

The National Medical Director of NHS England, Sir Bruce Keogh, who commissioned the Ambulance Response Programme in 2015, said that the 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.

The President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Taj Hassan, said that the changes in the Ambulance Response Programme’s system of call prioritisation are to be welcomed and will help save lives.

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