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New national ambulance standards

SCAS has changed the way it responds to 999 calls to improve emergency care for patients in line with the new national ambulance response standards that all ambulance trusts in England are implementing.

On 31 October 2017, SCAS went live with a new system that will ensure the most critically ill or injured patients will receive the fastest response. The new arrangements will help SCAS respond more quickly to calls where a patient is suffering a life-threatening illness or injury, as well as providing a better service for all other patients in the South Central region whatever their condition.

The changes ensure a more efficient use of our available resources and provide greater flexibility for our dispatch teams so they send only the most appropriate resource to individual patients. This in turn should reduce the long waits for an ambulance that some patients may have experienced in the past.


What are the changes?

Under the new national ambulance standards approved by the Secretary of State for Health, call handlers will have more time to assess 999 calls. Having more time to assess 999 calls that are not immediately life-threatening will enable us to identify patient needs better and send the most appropriate response.

SCAS, and all other English ambulance trusts, are measured on the time it takes from receiving a 999 call to a vehicle arriving at the patient’s location.

In the most serious of situations where those vital seconds count, ambulance resources will still be sent immediately, and we will also continue to immediately dispatch available community first responders and co-responders where appropriate too. Doing so will ensure that patients continue to get medically trained personnel and skilled clinicians by their side to start life-saving treatment as soon as possible.

Under the previous standards, life-threatening and emergency calls needed to be responded to within eight minutes. We know that most patients do not need this level of response, so under the new standards there are four response categories.

Category one – life-threatening calls. Responded to in an average of seven minutes and at least nine out of ten times within 15 minutes.



Category two – emergency calls. Responded to in an average of 18 minutes and at least nine out of ten times within 40 minutes.



Category three – urgent calls. Responded to at least nine out of ten times within 120 minutes. You may be treated by ambulance staff at the scene.



Category four – less urgent calls. Responded to at least nine out of ten times within 180 minutes. You may be given advice over the phone or referred to another service, such as a GP or pharmacist.



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 or 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 and make sure that the right vehicle is sent in the right time to assist our patients.

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 The University of Sheffield, more than 14 million ambulance calls were monitored and there were no patient safety incidents found.

For more information about the new ambulance respond standards, visit the NHS England website.

NHS England Ambulance Quality Indicators

A dashboard, which has comparative data for all English ambulance services has been developed. This contains a narrative section which provides a brief overview of each of the indicators and further explanation around our performance. For a similar narrative on any other ambulance service you will need to view the dashboard on their website at