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999 Dispatch Changes Welcome - But No Magic Bullet

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Department of Health's announcement must be accompanied by more resources for 999 staff - not less.

GMB, the union for ambulance staff, has cautiously welcomed extended dispatch times for call handlers – but says the changes don’t get to the root of the problem of missed targets.

The Department of Health today announced 999 call handlers will be given 240 seconds rather than 60 seconds to make the decision on whether to send an ambulance or a paramedic in a car to an emergency. [1]

The new method has been trialled for cases where life was not immediately in danger in three areas.

But ambulance waiting times, released today, show that the 75% target for emergency response reaching patients within 8 minutes for the most serious cases was missed again in May. [2]

GMB says the NHS needs proper funding, more vehicles, training and a recruitment drive to tackle the real problem.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretay for Public Services, said:

“While we welcome the additional time to secure the right response to 999 calls, we need to tread incredibly carefully.

“Patient safety is always the number one priority.

“Extending the time to consider calls can't be used to try to do more with less.

“Measures to reduce the pressure on our members are cautiously welcome, but there are multiple reasons for ambulance response times getting worse, including rising demand triggered by cuts to preventative social care.

“Today's shocking figures, driven by years of underfunding, show that there can be no room for complacency.

“The Department of Health's announcement must be accompanied by more resources for 999 call staff - not less.”


Contact: GMB press office on 07958 156846 or at

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