New ambulance standards

Following the largest clinical ambulance trials in the world, NHS England is to implement new ambulance standards across the country.

In a letter to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, Sir Bruce Keogh outlines why the impressive results from the trial demonstrate that changes should be adopted nationally.

The new system will update a decades old system and will provide a strong foundation for the future.

What are the changes?

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. They told us this isn’t long enough.

So from now on 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.

Ambulance services are measured on the time it takes from receiving a 999 call to a vehicle arriving at the patient’s location.

Life-threatening and emergency calls, under the current standards, should be responded to in eight minutes. We know that most patients do not need this level of response.

So, in future there will be four categories of call.

Category 1 – Calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries

This short animation explains more about these calls:

Category 2 – Emergency calls

Hear more about these types of calls:

Category 3 – Urgent calls

Watch this short animation on what an urgent call is:

Category 4 – Less urgent calls

Learn more about what this means:

Benefits for patients

Under the new system early recognition of life-threatening conditions, particularly cardiac arrest, will increase. A new set of pre-triage questions identifies those patients in need of the fastest response.

The new targets will also free up more vehicles and staff to respond to emergencies.

For a stroke patient this means that the ambulance service will be able to send an ambulance to convey them to hospital, when previously a motorbike or rapid response vehicle would ‘stop the clock’ but cannot transport them to A&E.

From now on stroke patients will get to hospital or a specialist stroke unit quicker because the most appropriate vehicle can be sent first time.

Patient safety at the heart of new system

Patient safety is paramount. Academics at Sheffield University monitored more than 14 million ambulance calls under the trial and found no patient safety incidents.

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