New rules in force for ambulance responses

AMBULANCES will only respond to what experts decide over the phone are life-threatening circumstances under a new policy decided by the NHS.

The current national target of answering Category B non-life threatening calls in 19 minutes has now been replaced by 11 new Clinical Quality Indicators for ambulance services nationally.

The changes mean that ambulance services will not be measured on time alone, but also on how they treat the patient and the outcome of any treatment.

The indicators include: the outcome following a stroke for ambulance patients, the proportion of calls closed with telephone advice or managed without transport to A&E, the time to answer calls and the patient experience.

The changes do not impact on the Category A life-threatening call time target of eight minutes which will stay the same. However, for calls from High Peak patients that are in a non-life threatening position, a telephone assessment will be made by an East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) clinician who will then direct the patient to the right care.

This means that an ambulance will not necessarily be sent, and the patient could be sent to see their GP, to a minor injury unit or even told to call NHS Direct.

EMAS Medical Director James Gray said: “A fast response to a 999 call can help to make all the difference, but for a long time we have said that it is the care that we provide to the patient that is just as important as how quickly we arrive.”

EMAS said the changes will “make a big difference to patient care” adding: “We will be able to identify areas of good practice and any areas which need improvement.

“As an organisation keen to develop and improve, EMAS welcomes this change.”