Ambulance services plan to save the NHS “tens of millions” by sending fewer patients to hospital, now the category B response target has been scrapped.

The target to reach 95 per cent of category B calls – classed as serious but non-life-threatening – within 19 minutes has been replaced by a set of 11 indicators.

These measure the number of calls managed without requiring transport to an accident and emergency department, as well as measuring outcomes for stroke and cardiac patients.

The new way of working, which many ambulance trusts hope will help them make the 4-5 per cent efficiency savings required over the next five years, involves triaging more patients over the phone. Patients will be redirected to a more appropriate part of the NHS or treated at the scene.

London Ambulance Service chief executive Peter Bradley told HSJ the changes to the target were an “enabler” while the need for financial restraint was acting as a “catalyst” to make changes that had been talked about within the service for the past five years.

He said: “Our whole [cost improvement] plan is based on seeing fewer ambulances sent to calls and fewer patients transported to A&E.

“You can’t stop people ringing so we have to take responsibility to do something different with their calls… I think we can save tens of millions for the rest of the NHS,” he said.

His organisation aims to reduce the proportion of patients conveyed to hospital from 74 per cent in 2010-11 to 67.5 per cent this year and 60 per cent in five years.

As previously reported, the trust is also planning to cut 890 posts from its 4,913 staff through natural wastage over the next five years to make savings of £53m. In common with the North West Ambulance Service, London is also looking to close ambulance stations and base more resource in high activity areas on the patch.

South West Ambulance service, meanwhile, has been promised extra investment from commissioners this year if it reduces pressure on the rest of the system.