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Trained volunteers to attend non-urgent 999 calls in London to tackle mounting ambulance delays

Written by on 18 April 2022

Volunteers will be responding to some 999 calls to take patients to hospital in an effort to tackle mounting delays, the London Ambulance Service (LAS) has said.

The pilot scheme, using ambulance cars, is due to start in London in May.

LAS said the trained volunteers would be sent to lower category 999 calls where the patient needed help to get to hospital.

The plan will focus on people who fall into “category three or four”, where they require a response within two hours, and need extra help because of mobility problems.

In a statement, LAS said this would be cases where “after a full clinical assessment it was judged it was safe for a trained volunteer to accompany a patient but would not be appropriate for a taxi.”

Category three calls can include late stages of labour, abdominal pains, and diabetes where patients can be treated in their own home.

Read more: How is your local hospital trust doing?

Trained volunteers already respond to 999 calls in their own car alongside ambulances, LAS said, but such volunteers would now be deployed in ambulance cars.

Volunteers are equipped, trained to use defibrillators and support LAS at life-threatening emergency calls in their area, the service said.

Twenty-two volunteers had been trained and assessed and cars would operate from New Malden, Deptford, Greenford, Kenton, Edmonton and Ilford, according to widely reported details from the LAS board in March.

Volunteers will drive ambulance cars under the scheme. Pic: London Ambulance Service Image: Response times have reached record highs. Pic: London Ambulance Service

An LAS spokesperson said: “This project builds on our well-established network of volunteers who respond to emergencies to help ensure our ambulances can reach the patients that need us the most.

“These fully-trained volunteers, who already respond to 999 calls in their communities, will help patients who have been assessed not to need an ambulance but who may need more support than a taxi can provide.”

The pressure ambulance services are under was laid bare on Thursday with the release of last month’s waiting times.

The average response time or ambulances in England dealing with the most urgent incidents – defined as calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and 35 seconds.

This is up from eight minutes and 51 seconds in February and is the longest average since current records began in August 2017.

Read more: Please get lift to hospital, patients told

The NHS England figures also showed ambulances took an average of one hour, one minute and three seconds last month to respond to emergency calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes.

This is up from 42 minutes and seven seconds in February and is the longest time on record for this category of call-outs.

Response times for urgent calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged three hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds, up from two hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds in February and was another record.