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Ambulance response times reduced to seven minutes for urgent calls

Ambulance response times reduced to seven minutes for urgent calls

Ambulances will now be expected to attend patients within seven minutes from getting a call – one minute faster than they were expected to previously
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Ambulances will now be expected to attend patients within seven minutes from getting a call – one minute faster than they were expected to previously.

NHS England also announced today that all calls will be subject to a target after it was found that some patients categorised as ‘green’ or non-urgent callers were left waiting for over six hours.

Furthermore, response times will be measured from when the call is placed to when the most appropriate vehicle arrives.

According to official figures, one in four patients undergo a ‘hidden wait’ after the current 8 minute target is met because the vehicle despatched to the patient – a bike or a car – was unable to transport them to A&E.

The new measures are expected to free up more vehicles and staff to respond to up to 750,000 more emergencies, as currently multiple vehicles are sent to the same 999 call to meet the target.

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s national medical director, said the targets aim to end ‘the culture of hitting the target but missing the point’.

He said: ‘They will refocus the service on what actually counts: outcomes for patients.’

He added: ‘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.’

Condition-specific response times have also been introduced. By 2022, 90% of heart attack patients will be expected to have received balloon inflation during angioplasty at a specialist heart attack centre within 150 minutes of dialling 999.

Meanwhile, nine in 10 stroke patients should also have received appropriate treatment within 180 minutes of making the 999 call.

NHS England used academics from Sheffield University to verify the safety of the new measures where they have been implemented at pilot sites. They found that patient care was maintained with no safety concerns.

Elements of the new response times were already trialed in England’s ten ambulance trusts, but will now be introduced as a permanent change during autumn this year.

Anthony Marsh, chief executive of the West Midlands Ambulance Service, which took part in the trials, said stroke patients are being reached ‘a minute quicker than before’.

He said: ‘Response times fell across all of our response categories during our involvement in the trial, and we have no doubt that implementing these changes has significantly improved the service we can offer our patients.’

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