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Trust set to introduce new national ambulance response standards

13 November 2017

A new set of ambulance response standards, aimed at delivering the quickest response possible for the most critically-ill or injured patients, will be introduced in South East Coast Ambulance Service from next week (22 November).

The new nationally-determined standards, which have been introduced across the country in recent months, see current Red 1, Red 2 and Green category calls replaced with four new categories. The new system is aimed at better enabling ambulance services to get the right resource to patients, the first time, in a timeframe appropriate for their clinical need.

The changes, known as the Ambulance Response Programme, (ARP), were announced by NHS England in July and follow the largest ambulance clinical trials in the world.

The clinical evidence, highlighted by an initial 18-month trial of ARP, showed that out of 14 million 999 calls managed within the pilot, there were no patient safety issues or concerns.

The change is strongly endorsed by a number of expert organisations including the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Stroke Association and the College of Paramedics.

Changing the performance standards, which were introduced in 1974, will improve efficiencies and free up ambulance crews to respond to emergencies. Vehicles are often dispatched to respond to patients in less than eight minutes but most patients do not need this level of response. The new standards will enable the Trust to send the most appropriate response to each patient, first time, while continuing prioritise those in the greatest need.

For example, stroke patients will receive an ambulance response at the first allocation, to ensure they can be conveyed to hospital as quickly as possible to receive the clinical intervention they require.

The availability of a transporting resource will also be improved, reducing the length of time single responders wait for back up.

The new categories and standards are set out below

• Category 1 - is for calls to people with immediately life-threatening and time critical injuries and illnesses. These will be responded to in a mean average time of seven minutes and at least 9 out of 10 times before 15 minutes.
• Category 2 – is for emergency calls. These will be responded to in a mean average time of 18 minutes and at least 9 out of 10 times before 40 minutes. Stroke patients will fall into this category and will get to hospital or a specialist stroke unit quicker because we can send the most appropriate vehicle first time.
• Category 3 – is for urgent calls. In some instances, patients in this category may be treated by ambulance staff in their own home. These types of calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times before 120 minutes
• Category 4 – is for less urgent calls. In some instances, patients may be given advice over the telephone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist. These less urgent calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times before 180 minutes

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations, Joe Garcia said: “ARP and the new ambulance response standards will help us to better meet the clinical needs of our patients rather than simply a time-driven target. We will also be better placed to send the right response, the first time.

“We are working extremely hard as a Trust, in the face of increasing year-on-year demand, to improve the efficiency and timeliness of our response to patients. While we cannot expect response times to improve overnight, as we continue to develop our operational staff skill-mix and ratio of ambulances to cars, our response to all categories of patient should improve.”

More information on the response standards and the clinical evidence that sits behind them as well as short animations and an easy-read guide to the changes can be found on our website: http://www.secamb.nhs.uk/about_us/our_performance/response_time_targets/ambulance_response_programme.aspx

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