The roll out of new ambulance response target times has begun across four of England’s ambulance trust services, and more will be moving to the new standards in October.
Trusts in the North West, Yorkshire, West Midlands and South West are delivering the new ARP which Health secretary Jeremy Hunt approved in July this year.
Under the new targets, ambulances will be expected to reach the most seriously ill patients in an average time of seven minutes (previously eight), and the clock will stop only when the most appropriate response arrives on screen, rather than the first.
The new targets apply to every single 999 patient, and could put an end to the “hidden waits” that some patients, including the frail and the elderly, are put through.
In the past, patients with severe issues waited as the vehicles sent to them were unable to transport them to A&E. Not only this, but half the calls received classed as ‘green’ were not covered by a national target, and patients had to wait up to six hours for care.
Chair of NHSCC’s National Ambulance Commissioners Network (NACN) Yvonne Rispin, said: “This change is an important step in enabling the ambulance service to provide patients with the best care possible, within an appropriate timeframe, while also making the most effective use of its resources in the face of rising demand.”
Due to the previous system, not only were the targets largely not being met across the country, a growing number of patients were being turned away from emergency departments due to a lack of capacity.
Trials revealed that the new system could bring faster treatment for patients, saving 250 lives a year, giving 750,000 calls a year an immediate response as well as drive improved care for stroke and heart attack patients.
Professor Jonathan Wenger, NHS England’s national clinical director for Urgent Care, said: “From now on, the bar will be set at 90 percent of calls to be reached in the target times, rather than 75 percent under the old system.”
NHS England have calculated that there will be up to 14,500 occasions each week in England where an additional ambulance is freed for response to the most serious of cases, which will ensure that those in the most need get to an emergency department quicker.