Eight minute response target set for ambulances

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 28 September 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:774

Ambulance services in England should prioritise 999 calls and aim to reach life threatening emergencies within 8 minutes, under new plans outlined in the government's white paper The Citizen's Charter—Five Years On. The paper, which covers performance targets in all public services, also includes plans to improve accident and emergency procedures in hospitals.

The white paper demands a quicker response to incidents in which rapid intervention will have a significant impact on saving lives such as heart attacks. The new target times will be implemented next year in four pilot areas—Derbyshire, Essex, Mersey, and Berkshire. And all ambulance services should meet the target in 75% of cases by 2001, with further progress thereafter.

The current charter standard is for ambulances to arrive within 14 minutes (or 19 minutes in rural areas). But a report in the BMJ (1995;311:281) estimated that an 8 minute response could save 3000 lives a year.

On accident and emergency services, the white paper says that after the pressures of last winter the government is considering how standards for accident and emergency departments can be improved. There will be new standards for initial assessment to ensure that patients have their conditions assessed quickly and accurately, but details of these have not yet been decided.

Another charter commitment, which the government says it shares with the medical profession, is to publish clinical indicators on the quality of treatment. This will be available within the NHS during 1997 and accessible to the public in 1998.—JOHN WARDEN, parliamentary correspondent, BMJ

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