New Ambulance Response Aims to Save More Lives

 Friday 30 September 2016

The Scottish Ambulance Service is to pilot a new response system which aims to save more lives and improve the quality of care for patients.

Patients with immediately life-threatening conditions, such as cardiac arrest, or who have been involved in serious road traffic incidents will be prioritised and receive the fastest response.

In less urgent cases, call handlers may spend more time with patients to better understand their health needs and ensure they send the most appropriate resource for their condition.

The move follows similar changes in Wales and parts of England which have proven highly successful - leading to faster response times for critically-ill patients.

The new response model has been developed following the most extensive clinically-evidenced review of its type ever undertaken in the UK – with nearly half a million calls examined. It is the first major change to the time-based targets system since 1974.

It will be introduced by the Scottish Ambulance Service before the end of the year and piloted for 12 months.

Pauline Howie, Chief Executive, Scottish Ambulance Service, said:
“The new model is the result of the most extensive clinically-evidenced review of this type undertaken in the UK and focuses on improving patient outcomes, rather than simply measuring the time it takes to respond.

“It will allow us to respond faster to more patients with time-critical, immediately life-threatening conditions. In other situations, we will safely and more effectively identify and send the right resource first time for patients, resulting in better overall clinical outcomes.

“The focus on time based targets for ambulance responses has changed little in around 40 years and does not take account of the advances made in clinical development of pre-hospital care.

“Prior to the introduction of the new model, we will engage further with our staff, patients and stakeholders, maintaining the process throughout the pilot as part of a programme of continuous improvement.”

The Chief Medical Officer has reviewed the clinical evidence supporting the new response system and approved the implementation of this pilot. A report on the outcomes will be submitted to the Scottish Government at the end of the 12 month period.

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said:
“The Scottish Ambulance Service has undertaken a rigorous review of its clinical data, involving a full year of actual patient outcome data being analysed.

“What the analysis showed was that the current coding system does not always accurately identify some patients’ conditions as immediately life-threatening. And that other codes were getting an eight minute response, although the patient’s condition had no time critical response requirement.

“I am persuaded by the extensive clinical evidence that the Scottish Ambulance Service has put forward and know that patient safety is at the heart of these changes.

“We will keep this pilot under close review over the next 12 months to ensure that we are seeing the improvements to patient safety and patient outcomes that are expected.”

Scottish Ambulance Service Chairman, David Garbutt, said:
“Saving more lives and improving patient outcomes is fundamental to the development of pre-hospital care in Scotland.

“This new model is a significant step forward in delivering the Board’s vision for continuous improvements in the quality of care for our patients and we welcome the support of the British Heart Foundation Scotland.”

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:
“I am pleased that this new clinical response model is based on evidence, unlike the eight-minute standard response time which was a pragmatic target set in 1974.

“The quality of patient care, before a person even reaches hospital, has improved dramatically over the years and we understand that today’s operational practices should evolve to reflect that.

"In the event of a cardiac arrest, time is critical and the best way to get professional help is to call 999 without delay. I’ll look forward to seeing the results of this pilot to ensure that heart patients continue to receive timely and quality care.”