• Best ever response times for many categories of calls
  • Incidents dropped 9 per cent compared with March
  • Demand also lower than April last year

Ambulance response times were some of the best ever seen last month – as the extra demand imposed by covid-19 had started to diminish and patients called the service less than last year.

Performance against the headline figure for life-threatening calls was nearly a minute faster on average – 7:08 in April compared with 8:07 in March – and for the much more numerous category two calls was 18:28 compared with 32:06 in March.

March’s category two performance – which includes strokes and heart attacks – was the worst on record since the current system of grading calls was introduced in 2017-18. In contrast, April’s was the best and was only just shy of the 18 minute target. Response times for the less serious category three and four calls were also the best recorded.

A&E collapses, but target missed

Accident and emergency departments had their quietest month since record began.

Just 916,581 patients attended an English A&E department in April, down from 1.5m in March, which had been the record until that point.

Before that the quietest month for A&E attendances was February 2011, which saw 1.6m attendances.

Emergency department attendances were down 56.6 per cent on the same month last year and admissions down 39 per cent.

Despite the reduced numbers the service last month missed the target for 95 per cent of patients to be seen within four hours, recording a performance of 90.4.

The number of “trolley waits”, where a patient has spent more than 12 hours waiting after a decision to admit, fell from 442 to 251 year-on-year.

In London, where the March performance had plummeted to 1:01:22, category two performance improved to 23:32. The London Ambulance Service Trust has been supported by crews and vehicles from neighbouring trusts, and has also had some firefighters driving ambulances. However, LAS was still struggling to answer calls swiftly, with 10 per cent of calls taking more than 3:11 to answer.

But nationally both the number of incidents responded to and the number of calls to ambulance services were significantly down on April 2019. Incidents had reduced from 711,247 to 683,732 – a fall of 4 per cent – and the number of calls had fallen from 978,082 to 879,477, a difference of 11 per cent. The two tallies differ because multiple calls can be made about the same incident.

The south west saw a reduction in incidents of 12 per cent, compared with April 2019; while London saw a reduction in demand of 16 per cent compared to March 2020, with demand last month virtually unchanged compared with a year ago. This appears to be linked to the substantial covid demand in the capital in March; whereas the south west has seen relatively very low infection and admission rates.

The lockdown has significantly reduced vehicle traffic, which should mean fewer callouts to collisions and, with many people spending much of the time indoors, there may be fewer industrial accidents and sporting and playground incidents.

Pressure on NHS 111 dropped markedly in April, with 1,655,146 calls compared to 2.962,751 in March. Calls abandoned after 30 seconds or more reduced from 1,145,727 to 203,937.

How ambulance incidents have fallen  
Ambulance serviceMarch 2020April 2020



683,732 - down 9%

East Midlands


61,622 - down 9%

East of England


69,614 - down 9%

Isle of Wight


1,864 - down 2%



102,059 - down 16%

North East


35,889 - down 2%

North West


92,054 - down 5%

South Central


45,588 - down 13%

South East Coast


58,064 - down 10%

South Western


64,254 - down 14%

West Midlands


88,966 - down 12%



63,758 - down 13%