The sector has many reasons to be proud of its staff and volunteers given the vital role they have played in the COVID response. It is important to remember the context that ambulance services were working in prior to the pandemic, with trusts facing rises in demand against a background of severe workforce and funding pressures. Shortly before the pandemic hit, the number of 999 contacts in the month of December 2019 broke records by reaching 1.15m and NHS 111 also saw a rise in demand with the number of calls increasing by 12% annually, reaching 1.84m in December 2019. As Daren reflects below, it is telling that ambulance trusts saw performance against targets improve in May to July this year and this begs the question of whether there needs to be a detailed review of how ambulance services are resourced and commissioned.
It is also clear from our conversation that that there is further scope for national and regional policy makers to work closely with the ambulance sector to identify and drive successful initiatives focused on improving patient experience and outcomes. The recently announced NHS 111 First pilot scheme is just one example of where strategic and operational insights from ambulance trusts will be vital to the successful delivery, evaluation and potential roll-out of the scheme. The skills, scale and reach of ambulance services mean they are particularly well placed to play a leading role in the design and delivery of integrated urgent and emergency care services.