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
The availability of a transporting resource will also be
improved, reducing the length of time single responders wait for
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
• 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
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: