Press release

Statistical press notice: Ambulance Quality Indicators – monthly update for England

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The latest Ambulance Systems Indicators and Ambulance Clinical Outcomes data were published today

Ambulance Systems Indicators for period December 2011 and Ambulance Clinical Outcomes for period September 2011

The following statistics were released today by the Department of Health:

Ambulance System Indicators; Category A 8 minute response time, category A 19 minute response time, call abandonment rate, re-contact rate following discharge of care, time to answer call, time to treatment, ambulance calls closed with telephone advice or managed without transport to A&E, ambulance emergency journeys; for period December 2011.

Ambulance Clinical Outcomes; Outcome from cardiac arrest - return of spontaneous circulation, outcome from acute ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), outcome from stroke for ambulance patients, outcome from cardiac arrest - survival to discharge; for period September 2011.

Main Findings - System Indicators for December 2011

• The proportion of Category A calls resulting in an emergency response arriving within 8 minutes was 74.0% nationally, ranging from 71.3% to 76.7% across different ambulance trusts. Performance on emergency responses within 8 minutes has worsened from 77.1%, in November, to 74.0% in December. However, performance has improved when compared to the same period in the previous year - in December 2010 performance was 62.6%. Please note, however, that data for December 2010 was collected under a different collection - the Weekly Situation Reports - and has been aggregated to make a monthly figure.
 
• The proportion of Category A calls resulting in an ambulance arriving at the scene within 19 minutes was 96.1%, ranging from 90.9% to 98.9%. Four Trusts; East Midlands Ambulance Service, East of England Ambulance Service, North West Ambulance Service and South Central Ambulance Service failed to achieve the standard for 95% of Category A calls to receive an ambulance vehicle capable of transporting the patient within 19 minutes of the request for transport being made. Performance has worsened compared to last month’s 96.8%. The year to date position (April - December) is that 96.8% of Category A calls resulted in an ambulance arriving at the scene within 19 minutes.

• The proportion of calls abandoned by the caller before the call was answered by the ambulance service was 1.1%, which is a worsening of the position when compared to 0.9% in November.

• The re-contact rate following discharge of care has two components:
- Re-contact following discharge of care by telephone, where 14.1% of such calls resulted in the patient re-contacting the Ambulance Service within 24 hours. This has worsened from last month’s position of 13.7%.
 - Where the discharge of care was from face-to-face treatment by the ambulance service at the scene, 7.2% of such patients re-contacted the Ambulance Service within 24 hours, which is a worsening in performance over the figure of 6.9% in November 2011. The range this month was 16.5% down to 2.2%.

• There is a separate element on those re-contacting the Ambulance Service and that deals with those for whom there is a locally agreed frequent caller procedure in place. Nationally, 0.9% of patients for whom a frequent caller handling procedure is in place re-contacted the ambulance service within the month; however, frequent caller procedures are locally determined and protocols will vary across ambulance services. Six Trusts were not able to identify frequent callers. For those Trusts that were able to supply both a numerator and denominator the corresponding figure was 2.0%.

• Where ambulance calls were closed with telephone advice or managed without transport to A&E then 5.4% of emergency 999 calls that received a telephone or face-to-face response were resolved by telephone advice, which is an improvement over last month’s figure of 5.0%. The range across all trusts was 9.3% to 3.4%.

• Of those emergency 999 calls that received a face-to-face response, 34.4% were either discharged at the scene, transferred to a destination other than a Type 1 or Type 2 A&E, or were referred to an alternative care pathway. Performance has improved - the previous month’s figure was 33.2%. This month’s performance ranged from 48.2% to 19.8%.

• Data on the median, 95th and 99th percentiles were collected, at Ambulance Trust level, for both Time to Answer Calls and Time to Treatment. However, it is not possible to produce a national median/95th/99th percentile.

• For the time to answer a call, the median ranged from less than a second to 3 seconds. The 95th percentile ranged from 1 to 55 seconds and the 99th percentile had a range of 9 to 131 seconds.

• The median time to treatment ranged from 5.0 minutes to 6.5 minutes, the 95th percentile ranged from 13.0 to 21.9 minutes and the 99th percentile had a range of 19.3 to 38.1 minutes.

•  In December 2011 there were 423,384 emergency journeys compared to 390,559 in November 2011.

Main Findings - Clinical Outcomes for September 2011

This return runs with a 3-month lag on the Systems Indicators, as this time is required in order for those patients transported by ambulance to have their outcomes resolved.

• The Return of Spontaneous Circulation (ROSC) is calculated for two patient groups: The overall rate measures the overall effectiveness of the urgent and emergency care system in managing care for all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests; the rate for the Utstein comparator group provides a more comparable and specific measure of the management of cardiac arrests for the subset of patients where timely and effective emergency care can particularly improve survival (e.g. 999 calls where the arrest was not witnessed and the patient may have gone into arrest several hours before the 999 call are included in the figures for all patients, but are excluded from the Utstein comparator group figure).
- Of those patients who had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, 22.2% had ROSC on arrival at hospital where resuscitation was commenced or continued by ambulance personnel. This is a worsening in performance from August 2011 where the corresponding figure was 24.4%.  Performance ranged from 29.8% to 15.3% across all ambulance trusts.
- For those patients who had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest that was witnessed, and where the patient had a heart rhythm that was suitable for defibrillation (i.e. the Utstein comparator group), 41.0% had ROSC on arrival at hospital where resuscitation was commenced or continued by ambulance personnel. Again, this was a deterioration compared to the previous month where performance was 47.5%. On mainland England performance ranged from 72.7% to 10.3%.

• As with the Return of Spontaneous Circulation, survival to discharge following cardiac arrest is reported separately for all patients, and for the subset of patients in the Utstein comparator group.
- Of those who suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, where ambulance staff commenced/continued resuscitation, 5.7% were discharged from hospital alive. This is a deterioration compared to the 7.5% reported last month. Performance on mainland England ranged from 9.2% to 2.1%. The Isle of Wight’s performance was 0%, however only 8 patients had resuscitation commenced/continued by the ambulance service following a cardiac arrest. South Central Ambulance Service was unable to return data for this element of the collection.
- For those patients who had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest that was witnessed, and where the patient had a heart rhythm that was suitable for defibrillation and resuscitation was commenced or continued by ambulance personnel, 23.5% were discharged from hospital alive, compared to 25.9% last month, a deterioration in performance. This indicator is characterised by small numbers. Performance percentage figures derived from these figures are likely to be subject to large variation, within and across months. This month performance, on mainland England, ranged from 50.0% to 14.3%. On the Isle of Wight only one patient fitted this category and unfortunately they were not discharged alive. South Central Ambulance Service was unable to return data for this element of the collection.

• Of those patients with an initial diagnosis of ‘definite myocardial infarction’ receiving thrombolysis where the first diagnostic ECG was performed by ambulance personnel, 68.2% received the thrombolysis within 60 minutes of the call being connected to the ambulance service. In August, this figure was 45.5%, so there has been an improvement in performance. As with the previous indicator, very small numbers were returned across those Trusts that are reporting data for this line. Four Trusts returned zero returns for this element. Four other Trusts do not return this data and have confirmed that this indicator is not applicable to them, as their clinical pathway does not include thrombolysis, only PPCI. These trusts are Great Western, South Central, North East and East of England.

• Those patients for whom a primary angioplasty occurred within 150 minutes of the call being connected to the ambulance service following the first diagnostic ECG being carried out by ambulance personnel, represented 89.0% of all such patients that fulfilled this criteria, a worsening in performance compared to 91.6% in August 2011. Performance ranged from 100% to 80.6%.

• 76.7% of patients with a pre-hospital diagnosis of suspected ST-elevation myocardial infarction received the appropriate care bundle. This is an improvement on last month, where 74.9% received the appropriate bundle. Performance ranged from 100% to 54.6%.

• 63.4% of FAST positive patients, who were assessed face to face, arrived at a hyperacute stroke centre within 60 minutes of the call being connected to the ambulance service. Performance ranged from 87.1% to 46.9%. This is a deterioration compared to August 2011 where performance for this indicator was 66.3%.

• Of the suspected stroke patients assessed face to face, 94.5% received an appropriate care bundle, showing a better performance than the 93.8% reported in the previous month. Performance ranged from 99.3% to 84.1%.

Statistical Notes

  1. Data Collection

• The Ambulance Quality Indicators data are collected from the 12 Ambulance Trusts in England each month. The collection is divided into two parts - the ‘System Indicators’, which relate to the initial 999 call and which runs three months ahead of the ‘Clinical Outcomes’. The Clinical Outcomes data relates to the outcomes of those patients transported by ambulance - the three month lag is required in order for those outcomes to be resolved.

• With the exception of the 8-minute response time standard and the 19-minute transportation standard for Category A (immediately life-threatening) calls, no thresholds to denote “poor” care have been set for these indicators. Instead, the data on the indicators will be used to reduce variation in performance across trusts (where clinically appropriate) and drive continuous improvement in patient outcomes over time.

  1. Clinical Dashboards

In line with recommendations from the National Ambulance Director and the National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, the information for the indicators will also be published in clinical dashboards that will use statistical process control to indicate whether these fluctuations in performance are statistically significant, or whether they merely represent the variation in performance that is unavoidable even when a health system is performing well. These statistical process control measures will take at least seven months worth of data to be reliable, but they will help ensure that performance changes over time are seen in the proper clinical context. Dashboards containing data for April - November 2011 have already been published on several ambulance trust websites.

  1. Data Quality

We are continuing to work with all the Trusts involved in this return to further improve data quality.

  1. Revisions

• Revisions to previous month’s data are made in line with the Department of Health’s revisions protocol for performance monitoring data. Future revisions will be made on a six-monthly cycle. The revisions protocol can be found on the Department of Health website.

• Ambulance Systems Indicators data for April and May 2011 have been revised.

  1. Related Statistics

• The total number of category A and category B calls made to ambulance trusts in England, and of these how many were responded to within 8 minutes (category A) or 19 minutes (category B), and the number of urgent and emergency journeys, were previously collected by the Weekly Situation Reports collection. The collection also included data on instances of delayed handover to A&E staff. Data covering the period 08/11/2010 to 29/05/2011 can be found on the Department of Health website.

• Performance statistics on ambulance services in other countries of the UK can be found at:
Welsh Government website
Scottish Ambulance website

Northern Ireland Amublance Service website  and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service website.

Additional Information

Full data tables for all Ambulance Trusts are available on the Department of Health website.

For press enquiries, please contact the DH press office: Tel: 020 7210 5221

The Government Statistical Service (GSS) statistician responsible for producing these data is:

Stuart Knight
Knowledge and Intelligence
Department of Health
Room 4E40, Quarry House, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS2 7UE
E-mail: Unify2@dh.gsi.gov.uk