A vision for the UK NHS ambulance sector

NHS Providers NHS Confederation and AACE joint banner

Ambulance24 vision - front coverA vision for the NHS ambulance sector, developed by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives in partnership with NHS Providers and NHS Confederation, says ambulance services’ core remit will always be to provide emergency response to those who have a life-threatening health need and to major incidents.

However, this is a relatively small proportion of what ambulance services do and is delivered alongside a much greater proportion of responses to urgent care needs in the out-of-hospital environment.

The purpose of this paper is to prompt and guide meaningful conversations at national, regional and system level, about the potential for the ambulance service to take a greater role in leading and co-designing urgent and emergency care (UEC) provision.

In thriving systems, leaders view the ambulance service as doing more than responding to emergencies – the service can help to prevent ill health and keep people out of hospital. While pockets of best practice exist, there is now an opportunity for commissioners and partner providers to purposefully discuss with their ambulance service their potential to do more for patients and proactively support other sectors, and in doing so, relieve some of the seemingly intractable system pressures.

The ambulance sector interfaces with each and every part of the health and care system – primary care, mental health, community services, allied health professions and secondary care, social care, other emergency services, voluntary services, local authorities, charities, private providers, and our commissioning bodies.

The report highlights the pivotal role ambulance trusts play in delivering urgent and emergency care and sets out a long term vision for an enhanced role they could take in co-designing this care.

It explores the case for change and highlight key case studies that demonstrate the vital contribution that ambulance services are already making by taking on a greater role in leading and coordinating urgent and emergency provision.

Paramedic driving ambulance

Development of this vision for the NHS ambulance sector follows engagement with ambulance, acute, community and mental health trusts as well as integrated care systems and we hope that it serves as a useful conversation starter at system level, to consider the future of urgent and emergency care.

It also reflects the close and continuing relationship between AACE, NHS Providers and NHS Confederation, and our shared commitment to support the work of ambulance trusts and improve care for patients.

Read the vision for the NHS ambulance sector here.

We are confident that the ambulance sector has much more to offer the rest of the NHS in improving urgent and emergency care provision in the UK. We would like to continue to engage with national, regional and system leaders, and our partner providers, to explore the possibilities of enhancing the ambulance role within urgent and emergency care and promote collaborative cross-sector planning and implementation of a long-term strategy to deliver meaningful change for patients and our people.

>> Contributions to our vision are welcomed.  Please share your thoughts here. 

Throughout 2024-25 we will continue these discussions and aim to bring further clarification of our ideas, which we will share on this website.

Read the vision for the NHS ambulance sector here.