The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) believes a new system for answering 999 calls could help save hundreds of lives every year.
NHS England announced its new ambulance response programme last month, a system which has been designed to help ensure patients get the right response while protecting stretched ambulance resources.
Call handlers will change the way they assess cases and will have more time to decide the most appropriate response, which may involve treatment over the phone, referral to a health service provider or dispatch of an emergency response.
Historically, ambulance services are allowed up to 60 seconds from receiving a call to sending a vehicle but, under the new system, call handlers will be given longer to make an assessment, allowing them to identify those most in need of an immediate response.
As a result, the service says that the most critical patients can be identified quicker than ever before, with evidence showing this could save up to 250 additional lives every year.
Robert Morton, EEAST chief executive, said: “Demand on the ambulance service has continued to increase year-on-year and every one of us working for the trust is under increasing pressure.
“We welcome the recent programme announcement as, once the operational changes required are implemented, this will go some way to both improve services to patients and enable us to begin to reduce some of that pressure on staff.”
According to independent analysis of a clinical ambulance trial, the new standards, will mean that up to 750,000 calls a year that currently go into a queue will get a quicker response.
Academics at Sheffield University found the changes are safe, with no safety issues identified in more than 14 million 999 calls handled around the country over the 18-month trial.
Mr Morton added: “We have a significant capacity gap that means we cannot respond to patients as quickly we would like in all cases.
“This gap also limits our ability to introduce more measures to improve staff health and wellbeing. Whilst we have introduced measures to reduce late finishes and improve rest breaks for staff, these tend to have a marginal benefit because of the significant capacity gap.
“We want to do more to make EEAST a better place to work for everyone and we know from the research available that staff with improved wellbeing provide even better care to our patients.”