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What price 90 seconds: is ‘Call Connect’ a disservice to 999 callers?
  1. Malcolm Woollard1,2,
  2. Peter O'Meara1,2,
  3. Graham Munro2
  1. 1Pre Hospital, Emergency and Cardiovascular Care Research Group, Coventry University, Coventry, UK
  2. 2School of Biomedical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Malcolm Woollard, Coventry University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Priory Street, Coventry CV1 5FB, UK; malcolm.woollard{at}

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In 2005 the UK Department of Health published ‘Taking healthcare to the patient: transforming NHS ambulance services’.1 This insightful and imaginative report was intended to deliver ambulance services fit for the 21st century. It made 70 recommendations, most of which gave particular focus to addressing the (currently unmet) needs of the majority of users of the 999 service, up to 80% of which have a non-life threatening or even a non-urgent clinical condition. One of the report's recommendations, which was unrelated to patients with non-urgent unscheduled care needs, has since however dominated the attention of ambulance service managers to such an extent that it has had a negative impact on progress in most other areas.

In accordance with this recommendation, in 2008 a new definition for the key Department of Health performance measure of ambulance response times was introduced. Previously the ‘clock-start’ for measuring response times occurred when a patient's chief complaint had been confirmed: this was now moved back to the point at which the telephone call was received in the ambulance dispatch centre—hence the title ‘Call Connect’ for this policy revision.2 Consequently, responding emergency vehicles now have, on average, a 90 s reduction in the time available for them to drive to a patient within the otherwise unchanged 7 min and 59 s target. The premise of ‘Call Connect’ is based on the view that achieving this revised 8 min target will make ‘… a real difference to patients and the way we deliver patient care’, and has been publicised as a great advance in ambulance service delivery.2 It builds on previous technical analyses of how to measure call times accurately and to present …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.