Region's Trust welcomes Ambulance Response Programme

Date: 02 August 2017

A new Ambulance Response Programme will deliver an improved service, could save more lives and ensure the right care is given to patients using the 999 service.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) has welcomed the Ambulance Response Programme and associated new targets for 999 calls announced last month by NHS England.

The new way of working will help ensure patients get the right response, first time, helping patients get the care they need and maximising the use of precious ambulance resources. The programme will see a new set of national performance targets for the ambulance service and these will apply to all 999 calls for the first time.

Call handlers will change the way they assess cases and will have more time to decide the most appropriate clinical response, which may involve treatment over the phone, referral to a health service provider or dispatch of an emergency response.

As a result, cardiac arrest patients, i.e. the most critical, can be identified quicker than ever before, with evidence showing this could save up to 250 additional lives every year.

Robert Morton, Chief Executive, said: “Demand on the ambulance service has continued to increase year on year and every one of us working for the Trust is under increasing pressure.

“We welcome the recent Ambulance Response Programme announcement as, once the operational changes required are implemented, this will go some way to both improve services to patients and enable us to begin to reduce some of that pressure on staff.” 

According to independent analysis of what has been the world’s largest clinical ambulance trial, the new standards, once fully implemented, will mean that up to 750,000 calls a year that currently go into a queue will get a quicker response.   Academics at Sheffield University found the changes are safe, with no safety issues identified in more than 14 million 999 calls handled over the 18-month trial.

Robert continued: “Since I joined EEAST it has been apparent we have a significant capacity gap that means we cannot respond to patients as quickly we would like in all cases. This gap also limits our ability to introduce more measures to improve staff health and wellbeing.  Whilst we have introduced measures to reduce late finishes and improve rest breaks for staff, these tend to have a marginal benefit because of the underlying and significant capacity gap.  

“We want to do more to make EEAST a better place to work for everyone and we know from the research available that staff with improved wellbeing provide even better care to our patients. Moving to these new ways of working will eventually lessen some of the pressure on staff and help provide the right response to patients, first time.”

The changes also introduce mandatory response time targets for all patients who dial 999.  Last year 50 per cent of all ambulance calls – about 500,000 in the region – were classed as “green” and not covered by a national target.   

To ensure these changes improve care for seriously ill patients, specific measures are being introduced for condition-specific measures which will track time from 999 call to hospital treatment for heart attacks and strokes, where a prompt and appropriate response is particularly critical.  

By 2022, it is expected that 90 per cent of eligible heart attack patients will receive definitive treatment (balloon inflation during angioplasty at a specialist heart attack centre) within 150 minutes.  Nine out of 10 stroke patients should also receive appropriate management (thrombolysis for those who require it, and first CT scan for all other stroke patients) within 180 minutes of making a 999 call.

The Trust will begin reporting against the new targets before the end of 2017, however, given the scale of the staffing deployment, skill mix and fleet changes that need to occur, coupled with the need to address any capacity gap, it will take a considerable period of time before most Ambulance Trusts will be in a position to deliver against the new standards.

  • Summary:

    A new Ambulance Response Programme will deliver an improved service, could save more lives and ensure the right care is given to patients using the 999 service.