Azara Blog: Government orders NHS to shave several minutes from ambulance response time

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Date published: 2007/12/11

The BBC says:

Ambulance unions and some doctors fear plans for vehicles manned by one person to answer more 999 calls in England could put patients at risk.

NHS bosses are splitting up many two-person ambulance crews in an effort to meet new response-time targets.

Some staff say "solo-responders" are not always appropriate and that it is a bid to get the service on the cheap.

But ministers insist the move "does not present a risk to patients" and that it will free up resources for other calls.

From next April, the 10 ambulance trusts in England will have to respond to three quarters of the most serious emergencies within eight minutes from the point the call is answered.

To date, the clock has only started ticking once details, including telephone number, address and problem, had been taken.

Critics said this process had been taking several minutes in some cases, masking the true response times.

It is a bit ridiculous to start the clock from when the call is picked up, given that you can't start driving until you know where you are driving to. Ministers have decided that chopping several minutes off the response time is going to result in better outcomes for patients than having two-person crews. Hopefully ministers have some good evidence that this is the case. But what are the odds that they made this policy up without any such evidence? The fact that they claim the move "does not present a risk to patients" shows they probably don't have any evidence (otherwise they would have mentioned the trade-off) and are just trying to deny reality. On the other hand, to describe this move as a "bid to get the service on the cheap" is a bit of a non-statement. Every organisation in the world has to balance cost versus efficiency. There is no infinite money supply waiting to be spent. And as a result, some people will die who might otherwise have not.

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