The optimal competence level of personnel involved in prehospital emergency care is a matter for discussion. In Sweden a national quality improvement process has been initiated including strict regulation of the authorization of ambulance personnel to administer drugs and increased involvement of registered nurses. The aim of the present study was to assess from a national survey the present status of the ongoing quality improvement process in prehospital emergency care in Sweden. A questionnaire, detailing organizational, staffing, competence and functional aspects, was sent to all medical directors of prehospital EMS. The response frequency was 87.5%. Variations in the local organization of the prehospital care were observed. Only a limited number (20%) of the districts organized the ambulance services according to the competence level of the personnel. It was found that the competence level of the personnel involved in prehospital emergency care had improved considerably compared with the situation 5 years ago. A majority of the ambulancemen had increased their competence level by completing nurse assistant training and more registered nurses had been employed. The changes in the competence level and organization of the ambulance services and prehospital emergency care were considered to have had moderate (38.5%) or great (51.9%) impact on the quality of the services during the past 5 years. The effect was reported by 53.2% of the directors to be objectively verified from review of ambulance records, regular proficiency tests, patient survival data (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), and analyses of computer-based records. It is concluded that the present study clearly shows that quality improvement process initiated by the Swedish authorities has resulted in a considerable improvement of prehospital emergency care in Sweden during the past few years.