Association of Ambulance Chief Executives welcomes system focus underpinning NHS England operational planning priorities for 2024/25

AACE LOGO Feb 2024

The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) welcomed the publication of NHS England’s 2024/25 priorities and operational planning guidance at the beginning of April 2024.

AACE strongly endorses the guidance’s commitment to a consistent approach by integrated care systems (ICSs) to maintain the volume of ambulance hours delivered, to reduce hospital handover delays, and to find alternatives to 999 and emergency department attendance which will mean that ambulance services will be able to reach patients more quickly and save more lives. This is imperative if ambulance response times are going to continue to improve and more importantly, the associated improvements in patient quality, care and clinical outcomes are to be realised.

AACE fully supports NHS England’s system focus on the development of services that reduce ambulance conveyance to acute hospitals where appropriate, and the embedding of cultural improvement alongside the delivery of operational targets that translate into better care for patients. In particular we have embraced the inclusion of the delivery of the recommendations from the February 2024 culture review of English ambulance services in the 24/25 operating plan.

The system focus on hospital handover delays is greatly welcomed, which impact detrimentally on the care ambulance services can provide to patients, as well as other parts of the NHS, while adversely affecting clinical outcomes for patients. Eight out of ten of our members in England have already seen the number of hours lost to hospital handover delays in their regions exceed the number of hours lost by this time last year.

In the context of the above and the pivotal role that ambulance services play in the delivery of care at the right place at the right time across the system, as we move into the new financial year we ask that commissioners and ICS partners continue to support us in delivering against the planning guidance in 2024/25. Without the associated financial backing and a long-term financial plan (including capital funding) for the ambulance sector, there is a significant risk to maintaining improvements seen last year and the quality of care we can provide to patients.