National move to imrove service - Extra minute for call handlers

Friday, 01 June, 2012

Many Ambulance Service Trusts have welcomed the government's plans to help ensure that patients get sent the right support and in turn make more vehicles available.

East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) Chief Executive Hayden Newton has been campaigning for the change as part of his role within the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE).

Changes from June 1 means call handlers are be given up to an extra minute longer to get more simple and vital additional information from some callers but only in cases where this time will not have an impact on the patient's outcome.

It means the most appropriate response can get to the patient more quickly. Under the new system the government will expect ambulance services to get to more critically ill patients within the target response time. The move is based on the fact that all ambulance services must reach 75 per cent of patients in the most urgent need ('Red calls') within eight minutes and there are occasions when a rapid response vehicle (RRV) is sent at the same time as an ambulance as it arrives more quickly.

But on average, a fifth of these vehicles are then cancelled en-route, wasting vital resources, which could be used for other patients. Ambulance staff will be able to get enough extra details from callers to make sure that the right support is sent to the right place, first time.

This extra 60 seconds maximum clinical assessment or 'triage' time for lower priority Red calls ('Red 2') aims to cut down on the number of 'double dispatches'. Mr Newton said: "This is a move which I, in my role within the AACE working group, have been championing for some time so I am very pleased to see that the Department of Health has listened to us and brought in a change which will enable ambulance services to dispatch resources more efficiently so that patients, who are our number one priority, can benefit."

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