A NEW response system for 999 calls is to be officially rolled out in Worcestershire, following a trial.

It will change the way calls are prioritised to concentrate on the most seriously ill patients first.

Nationally, ambulance services in England have struggled to meet their target to respond to 75 per cent of category A calls within eight minutes, reaching just 62.3 per cent instead.

On Thursday (July 13), the Government announced its approval for the Ambulance Response Programme (ARP), which has been developed by clinicians over the last 18 months and is the most rigorously tested programme of its kind anywhere in the world.

West Midlands Ambulance Service has been one of three ambulance trusts piloting the new scheme.

Under the new system, call handlers in the 999 control rooms ask additional questions allowing an ambulance to be dispatched without delay.

For other types of call, ambulance staff are given additional time to assess the needs of the patient more fully so that the right response can be sent to meet their needs.

Because this means a more efficient tasking of ambulance resources, callers actually get a quicker response than they do presently.

Trust chief executive Anthony Marsh, said: "Since we introduced the Ambulance Response Programme last summer we have been able to get to more patients, more quickly, than ever before, particularly those with the most serious conditions; this has undoubtedly led to lives being saved.

"ARP gives us a chance to send the correct response to each patient, not just the closest.

"The system has freed up ambulances which were previously heading to incidents and then being stood down, which are now utilised to get to lower categories of calls that might previously have waited longer for a response."