Ambulance trust to introduce new response standards

A South East Coast Ambulance Service crew
A South East Coast Ambulance Service crew

A new set of ambulance standards aimed at delivering the quickest response to the most serious 999 calls are set to be rolled out in Sussex from next week.

The new-nationally determined requirements, which will see the current Red 1, Red 2, and Green categories replaced, has been designed so that NHS trusts can send the right resource first time to patients.

The changes, known as the Ambulance Response Programme, (ARP), were announced by NHS England in July, and will be introduced by South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) from next Wednesday (November 22).

This comes after SECAmb, which has been in special measures since September 2016, missed its response time target of eight minutes on almost half of Red 1 calls in September.

Joe Garcia, executive director of operations at SECAmb, 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.”

· 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 nine out of ten 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 nine out of ten times before 40 minutes. Stroke patients will fall into this category and will get to hospital or a specialist stroke unit quicker because SECAmb says it 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 nine out of ten 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 nine out of ten times before 180 minutes

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 changes have been endorsed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Stroke Association, and the College of Paramedics.

According to the NHS, changes to the performance standards, which were introduced in 1974, will free up ambulance crews to respond to emergencies as vehicles are often dispatched to respond to patients in less than eight minutes when most patients do not need such a quick response.