PERFORMANCE: London Ambulance Service Trust has announced it will cut the number of emergency calls that receive an ambulance response by 15 per cent, in response to staff shortages and rising demand.
The move is intended to help the trust recover its performance against the national target for responding to category A calls - those with the most serious or life threatening conditions - within eight minutes.
The majority of category C callers - those which are not serious or life threatening - will no longer be sent an ambulance. There will be exceptions, for example if an elderly person trips or falls.
On average the trust receives over 35,000 emergency calls a week, of which 24,000 result in an ambulance response. In future, it will not send ambulances to around 3,500 of these callers - a reduction of 15 per cent.
Instead, these callers will be clinically triaged by a call handler and either referred to NHS 111 or given telephone advice by a paramedic.
If a caller is assessed by a GP or paramedic as requiring an ambulance, they will be added to the priority queue.
Since April the trust has fallen well short of the national standards for ambulance response, with only 64 per cent of category A patients reached within eight minutes. The national target is 75 per cent. It has seen an 11 per cent increase in emergency calls since last year.
The service will continue to use private ambulances to provide short term support and some staff members have been asked to consider doing overtime shifts.
London Ambulance Service chief executive Ann Radmore said it faced a “significant and severe” staff shortage and a “year on year increase in demand”, particularly from the most critical patients.
She added that the move to reduce ambulance call outs had been welcomed by staff.
The trust currently sends out two response vehicles to many incidents, but will be cutting this down to one.
Ms Radmore said: “Historically we’ve tended to send two but when I look at other ambulance trusts and when we talk to the staff it’s clear to me that we don’t need to do that.
“I will be led by the doctors about whether there are particular cases where we do know we need to send two.”
The trust employs 3,000 frontline staff and is aiming to hire 500 extra staff, including 100 paramedic graduates and over 100 recruits from Australia, where there is an over-supply of paramedics.
It is urging patients to call NHS 111 or make their own way to an urgent care centre, pharmacy or GP.