We handle almost 1.6 million calls across
London every year and attend more than one million
Every time we receive a 999 call, our staff
record the relevant details and use information about the
nature of the patient’s illness or injury to ensure they are sent
the right medical help.
Our call-handlers—known as emergency medical
dispatchers—use sophisticated software to put the call into a
particular category, based on its urgency.
Up until April 2011, this had been either
Category A (immediately life-threatening), Category B (serious but
not immediately life-threatening) or Category C (not serious or
From 19 April 2011, and following the removal
of the Category B target, calls are now handled as either
Category A or Category C.
What the changes mean for patients
- The target of reaching 75 per
cent of patients in a life-threatening condition (Category A) in
eight minutes is still in place – these patients will still receive
the same fast response, and we will send a single responder (in a
car or on a motorbike or bicycle) and a crew in an emergency
- All non life-threatening
calls to the Service will be put into one of four categories.
Patients in the first two of these will still be attended by
ambulance staff in either 20 or 30 minutes, depending on their
- Those patients in the other
two least serious categories could in the first instance be offered
advice over the phone by trained ambulance staff or NHS 111 as
happens for some callers now. They could then be referred to their
GP or a walk-in centre, or sent an ambulance if it is decided they
If a telephone assessment cannot be carried out within an agreed
timeframe, the calls will be upgraded for staff to be sent to carry
out a face-to-face assessment.
As well as the Category A
target, all ambulance services in England will also now
be measured on their performance against 11 new
clinical quality indicators, which are intended to give a
detailed view of the care that patients are receiving.