A new ambulance response system will see all 999 calls subjected to new target times.
Plans announced by NHS England will ensure that the severity of patients’ conditions will directly impact upon response from the emergency services.
Call handlers will also be provided with more time in order to decipher what action is appropriate.
And new targets for ambulances to deal with the most seriously ill patients will be brought in, with an average time of seven minutes set as a benchmark.
Timing will only stop when the most appropriate response arrives on scene, as opposed to the first.
Mandatory targets are also being brought in for response times to 999 calls, abolishing the green rating that today currently receive.
This process can often result in lengthy queueing for 999 callers.
NHS England will also begin tracking the times from 999 calls to hospital treatment for heart attacks and strokes, “where a prompt and appropriate response is particularly critical”.
As a result of the new initiative, targets will be set for 99% of eligible heart attack patients to receive definitive treatment within one hundred and fifty minutes, and the same proportion of stroke patients to receive appropriate management within one hundred and eighty minutes of the 999 call being lodged.
NHS England believes that the new target should be achieved within the next few years, while data collection will begin immediately.
Trials of the planned changes have been subject to a study carried out by Sheffield University, which deemed them ‘safe’, NHS England noted.
NHS England national medical director Sir Bruce Keogh suggested that the new initiative will have a positive impact on the ambulance service and the way 999 calls are handled.
“These changes, together with ambitious new clinical standards for heart attack and stroke patients, will end the culture of ‘hitting the target but missing the point’. They will refocus the service on what actually counts: outcomes for patients.”
While Royal College of Emergency Medicine president Taj Hassan welcomed the plans, indicating that the new approach should have a positive impact on response times.
“Response times will be more appropriate according to the patient’s need, and trials have suggested that ambulances could arrive up to three minutes quicker to the most serious incidents – time which can make the difference between life and death.”
This latest scheme is an attempt to reduce the number of patients suffering difficulties while waiting for ambulances, with recent evidence indicating that this undesirable tendency is increasing.