Urgent community response (UCR) services deliver rapid response care to patients in the community within two hours of receiving a call and will play a central role in improving care and managing system-wide pressures this winter and beyond. Over the past few years, community providers have made significant progress in scaling up these services in line with national targets and NHS England's urgent and emergency care plan. Leaders and staff in community providers remain ambitious about the potential to expand these services for patients.

UCR services ensure people receive the right care quickly in their own home. This can reduce the need for patients to use urgent and emergency care pathways; reduce pressures on ambulance services and A&E departments, contributing to better and more timely care for patients; and improved patient flow through the whole health and care system.


NHS England has recently increased its focus on the role of UCR through national guidance, including the winter plan for 2023/24. As part of the 10 high-impact interventions outlined within the document, integrated care boards, community providers and primary care providers have been asked to increase the volume and consistency of referrals into UCR services to 'improve patient care and ease pressure on ambulance services and avoid admission'.

Across the country, there are already examples of community providers working effectively with partners to do this, and to maximise the benefits of UCR services for patients and system flow. We previously set out the importance of UCR services in our report, Making the most of UCR services, and highlighted ways community providers are delivering UCR services. However, there is scope to go further faster.

As we look towards winter, this is a timely moment to share good practice and reflect on how national leaders, systems and community providers can ensure that these vital services are delivering maximum value to the health and care system, including colleagues in the ambulance sector and, most importantly, to patients.