Changes to ambulance response times across East Anglia

Changes to ambulance response targets could mean more people dialling 999 could get a call back from a clinician rather than a visit by paramedics.

From April 1, the East of England Ambulance Service will no longer have to meet a 95pc target of sending an ambulance to serious, but not immediately life-threatening cases within 19 minutes.

The government's decision to scrap the target means that people ringing 999 could receive a call back from a clinician to further assess the seriousness of the case in some of these 'category B' calls.

Emergency 999 calls to the ambulance service are prioritised into three categories to ensure life-threatening cases receive the quickest response.

The 75pc target to respond to catgeory A – immediately life-threatening – calls within eight minutes remains, but a pilot is being trialled in the West Midlands to see if clincal triage could be used for these calls.

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Responses to category C calls, which are not serious or life-threatening, are set at a local level and currently the East of England Ambulance Service aims for a 60-minute response time, which could include a call back from the clinical support desk, which is manned by staff with clinical knowledge and who are able to ask more detailed questions than normal call handlers.

In a report, the ambulance service's chief executive Hayden Newton says that the change means 'more calls will be dealt with through the clinical support desk'.

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He said: 'The development around the elimination of the B19 response time standard is extremely welcome; it really does open up a way for ambulance services to enhance the clinical support desk function and fits very well within our vision regarding the integrated service model.'

The service has not yet decided exactly how it will respond to category B calls and is expecting to have made decisions about this by mid-March.

Kevin Risley, Unison's branch secretary for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: 'Some people can be treated in a different way or by a different person and it's a case of trying to free up ambulances to respond to appropriate calls.

'Filtering out some calls prior to sending an ambulance is a good thing for us and hopefully means there are ambulances to go to people who genuinely need them.

'Having said that, the trust needs to be robust in triaging. The last thing we want is patients slipping through the net that need us.

'It's early days, but we will be monitoring and working with the trust.'

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