New ambulance standards

New ambulance standards are about to be introduced across the country, following trials in a number of locations.  Here in Cambridgeshire, the change is set to take place this month.

Under current national standards, ambulance services are allowed up to 60 seconds from receiving a call to sending a vehicle. Ambulance services are measured on how long it takes from receiving a 999 call to a vehicle arriving with the patient, and life-threatening and emergency calls should be responded to in eight minutes. This target however has not been met for the last two years.

Under the new standards, when you call 999 and ask for the ambulance service, the call handler will ask a few questions to assign your call into one of four different categories:

  • life-threatening (Category 1)
  • emergency (Category 2)
  • urgent (Category 3) and
  • less urgent (Category 4).

Each category will have different response times and standards. The link above contains a short animation about each call category.

The trials that have been carried out have been closely monitored and appear to have freed up capacity to respond appropriately to emergencies without compromising patient safety. While this is encouraging, it’s important that the new standards continue to be monitored, and to recognise that while they may help, they won’t in themselves solve all the challenges faced by our under-pressure ambulance services.

Image by Graham Richardson from Plymouth, England (South Western Ambulance VX09FYP) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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