Calls to the emergency services requesting an ambulance are to be prioritised for the first time in an attempt to save lives, it was announced yesterday.
Following successful trials from next month staff answering 999 calls will categorise patients using a two-tier system.
In critical cases, the ambulance trusts will be expected to reach the casualty within eight minutes.
However where a patient's condition is not deemed life-threatening, the call handler will be given up to 60 seconds longer to collate more information before dispatching help.
These “Red 2” calls are designed to ensure staff send the most appropriate response vehicle to patients, meaning fewer ambulance journeys are wasted or cancelled and more resources remain available for patients in greatest need.
The changes are being introduced following trials in London and the West Midlands where emergency services responded to more than 22,000 calls.
The trials showed ambulances reached those in critical need at least 40 seconds faster than before and showed a reduction in cancellations of at least a 24 per cent.
If replicated elsewhere, this would save at least 650,000 wasted ambulances journeys across England and, they estimate save 150 lives a year.
At the moment, an average of 20 per cent of vehicles are cancelled before reaching the scene, wasting resources.
Because the new system will free up more vehicles, ambulance trusts will be expected to respond to 80 per cent of the most urgent patients within eight minutes within a year.
Until now, the target has been to reach 75 per cent of critical cases within the same time frame.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies