Calling an ambulance - response times

To ensure that your patient gets the most appropriate care it is important that the correct ambulance response is requested.  

Sometimes there can be some confusion between a GP’s definition of urgent and emergency and ours.

In a few cases this has led to GPs requesting urgent ambulances when emergency responses were required. In other cases, some GPs have requested full blue-light emergency responses when in fact urgent responses, between one to four hours, would have been more appropriate.

As demand in London for ambulances is usually very high, we will triage your request similarly to all 999 calls. Call triage is a vital way of ensuring that those patients with the most immediate need are dealt with first, regardless of who is requesting the ambulance.

There are three types of ambulance response you can ask for:

 

Emergency

An emergency is either:

  • immediately life-threatening
  • not immediately life-threatening

Who will be sent to treat your patient?

In life-threatening emergencies, people often expect an ambulance with two people to arrive, but the patient could also be treated by one of our single responders who arrive by car, motorcycle or bicycle.

All of these vehicles carry the vital life-saving equipment needed in an emergency. They can get through traffic quicker and means we can get treatment to your patient more quickly. If a single responder is sent, a traditional ambulance response will follow to provide further support and transport for the patient.

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Urgent 

An urgent call by a GP is defined by the Department of Health as not an emergency but as one where a time limit is set, (one to four hours), and therefore has a lower priority.

Who will be sent to treat your patient?

The majority of GP calls fall into the urgent call category and the ambulance crew may be one of our accident and emergency support (A&E Support) staff. They help keep our paramedics and emergency medical technicians free to attend the higher categorised emergency calls.

We aim to be with the patient within 15 minutes of the time specified by the GP. Similarly, if your assessment requires an emergency response, make this clear to the call operator.

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Non-urgent

These would involve routine bookings such as patients being referred by a GP for outpatient appointments or investigations (where there is more than four hours notice). Please see our Patient Transport Service page to find out about our routine journeys.

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