New-look ambulance trusts have been given an extra year to ensure they hit the tightened-up target of reaching all life-threatening emergency calls within eight minutes.

New-look ambulance trusts have been given an extra year to ensure they hit the tightened-up target of reaching all life-threatening emergency calls within eight minutes.

The ambulance service had been told that by next March all category-A calls must be reached within eight minutes from the time the call was connected. Some trusts had been starting the clock once the call handler had taken down key information from the caller.

But following concerns expressed by the ambulance service, health minister Lord Warner announced last week that full implementation of the new standard has been delayed to 1 April 2008.

Lord Warner also told the Ambulance Service Association's annual Ambex conference that the 12 new ambulance trusts could also receive 'incentives' totalling£25m to help them reach the eight-minute target.

Trusts that can demonstrate good progress towards the target will receive extra money for control-room technology and new vehicles.

ASA chief executive Richard Diment said: 'It would have been very, very difficult to reach this target if the deadline had not been put back.

'There is a lot of investment required in equipment, training, and people if it is to happen.'

- The 12 new ambulance trusts will want to consider moving to foundation status sooner rather than later, according to a report from the NHS Confederation, NHS Ambulance Services: more than patient transport.

The government has said it wants all acute and mental health trusts to be in a position to apply for foundation trust status by the end of 2008, and it has indicated it will look at how ambulance trusts could join them.