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New ambulance response targets start across four trusts

The roll-out of new ambulance response target times has now begun across four of England’s ambulance trust services, it was revealed this week.

The new response times were announced earlier this year, and speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo, Professor Jonathan Wenger, NHS England’s national clinical director for Urgent Care, and NHS England’s lead paramedic, Richard Webber, told delegates about the next steps for the delivery of the Ambulance Response Programme (ARP).

Commenting on the new targets, Prof Wenger said that giving call handlers more time for triage didn’t impede the response to the sickest patients and it actually would make the ambulance service more efficient as a result.

“We already have the North West, Yorkshire, West Midlands and South West services working to the new response targets and more will be moving to the new standards in October,” he said.

“Rather than sending multiple vehicles to one call and having to stand crews down, we are now sending one vehicle and giving the patient the right response. This is freeing up paramedics and ambulances to attend other calls.

“There is now a response standard for every patient and this will focus services on the less urgent calls while not affecting responses to the most serious calls,” he added. “From now on the bar will be set at 90% of calls to be reached in the target times rather than 75% under the old system.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt approved the ARP in July, leading England’s 11 ambulance trusts to immediately start planning for the delivery phase of the programme, with the aim that most will go live by the end of October.

And Prof Wenger went on to explain that ambulance trusts would begin to change their vehicle fleets and response models to deliver the overall objectives of the Keogh Review of urgent and emergency care.

Trials of the ARP have shown that the new system could bring faster treatment for patients, saving 250 lives a year, give 750,000 calls a year an immediate response as well as drive improved care for stroke and heart attack patients.

Under the new targets, ambulances will be expected to reach the most seriously ill patients in an average time of seven minutes, and the ‘clock’ will only stop when the most appropriate response arrives on scene, rather than the first.

“The new targets will remove ‘hidden’ and long waits suffered by millions of patients, including reducing lengthy waits for the frail and elderly,” Prof Wenger continued.

“This will free up more vehicles and staff to respond to emergencies. Currently, three or even four vehicles may be sent to the same 999 call to be sure of meeting the eight minute target, meaning that across the country one in four are stood down before reaching their destination.”

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