Changes made by the new Ambulance Response Programme will see fewer emergency calls being classified as ‘life threatening’, resulting in longer wait times for patients.
Current targets across England are being scrapped in favour of a new system which officials say will lead to faster treatment for those needing it, saving 250 lives per year.
However, this means that people suffering from suspected heart attacks or strokes could wait up to 18 minutes for a response.
The changes have been welcomed by ambulance services who say the new rules will improve patient outcomes.
A spokesman from the North West Ambulance Service said: “Providing patients with the right response, at the right time, first time, is the overriding aim of the Ambulance Response Programme.
“At North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, we aim to go live with the Ambulance Response Programme on Monday August 7. In preparation for this proposed go live date we have developed and rolled out a targeted training programme for our dispatchers, clinicians and managers in emergency operation centres.
At the moment, half of 999 calls are considered life-threatening, and require a response time of less than eight minutes.
Under the new system around four million calls a year will come under more relaxed targets and be classed as “emergency”. This now includes heart attacks and stroke.
Last year in the North West, more than 8,500 died of a heart attack, and more than 4,000 died of a stroke.
Advertising campaigns over recent years have frequently highlighted how vital it is that when these conditions strike, response times are everything.
In a surprising move high-ranking officials from the Stroke Association and British Heart Foundation have welcomed the changes.
Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said: “We support the recommendations of the Ambulance Response Programme. It is vital that all stroke patients get to a stroke unit as quickly as possible in order to get lifesaving treatment.
“By allowing ambulance call handlers a little more time to determine what is wrong with a patient, it ensures that stroke patients can be identified and that the right vehicle can be sent out immediately to get the patient to hospital.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, heart attack or stroke, it is absolutely vital that emergency services attend as quickly as possible.
“Following promising trial results, when the new system is introduced more widely we would expect emergency services to attend these life-threatening events more rapidly to ensure that every victim has the best chance of survival.”