New ambulance standards

North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) is changing the way it responds to 999 calls to improve emergency care for patients.

On 7 August 2017, NWAS went live with a new system that will ensure the sickest patients will receive the fastest response. It is the result of the largest study of an ambulance system ever completed, anywhere in the world.

What are the changes?
The changes focus on making sure the best, most appropriate response is provided for each patient, first time.

Call handlers will have more time to assess 999 calls. Historically, we have up to 60 seconds from receiving a call to send a vehicle. Having more time to assess 999 calls that are not immediately life-threatening will enable us to identify patients’ needs better and send the most appropriate response.

NWAS, and other ambulance services across the country, are measured on the time it takes from receiving a 999 call to a vehicle arriving at the patient’s location.

Life-threatening and emergency calls, under the current standards, should be responded to in eight minutes. We know that most patients do not need this level of response, so under the new standards there are four response categories.

Here is more information – click on the category to watch a short animation about each one:

  • Category one is for calls about people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. These will be responded to in an average time of 7 minutes and at least 9 out of 10 times within 15 minutes.
  • Category two is for emergency calls. These will be responded to in an average time of 18 minutes and at least 9 out of 10 times within 40 minutes.
  • Category three is for urgent calls. In some instances you may be treated by ambulance staff in your own home. These types of calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 120 minutes.
  • Category four is for less urgent calls. In some instances you 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 9 out of 10 times within 180 minutes.

How do the changes benefit patients?
Under the new system, we will be able to recognise life-threatening conditions, particularly cardiac arrest, even earlier. A new set of pre-triage questions identifies those patients in need of the fastest response.

The new targets will help to free up more vehicles and staff to respond to emergencies.

For example, for a stroke patient this means we will be able to send an ambulance to take them to hospital, when previously a motorbike or rapid response vehicle would ‘stop the clock’ but cannot transport them to A&E.

From now on stroke patients will get to hospital or a specialist stroke unit quicker because the most appropriate vehicle can be sent first time.

Keeping you safe
As part of a review into urgent and emergency care, NHS England has rigorously tested the new ambulance standards to ensure they are safe.

During research by academics at Sheffield University, more than 14 million ambulance calls were monitored and there were no patient safety incidents found.

For more information on this, click here to visit the NHS England website.