East: Calls For Better Ambulance Response Times

Dr Dan Poulter, MP or Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, and Peter Aldous, Member of Parliament for Waveney, have called for urgent action to be taken to improve ambulance response times in Suffolk and Norfolk, after recently published figures showed that in some areas people have to wait longer than the 8 minute target time for an ambulance to arrive at the scene of an emergency.

The MPs joint call comes after assurances were given by the Chief Executive of the East of England Ambulance Trust last year that steps would be taken to improve ambulance response times in rural areas of Suffolk. The latest figures, which cover the period between December 2011 to March 2012, show that; 

· In Framlingham, 27% of emergencies were responded to within the 8 minute target time.

· In Mendham, 35% of emergencies were responded to within the 8 minute target time.

· In Debenham, 35% of emergencies were responded to within the 8 minute target time.

· In Stradbroke, 31% of emergencies were responded to within the 8 minute target time.

· In Eye, 30% of emergencies were responded to within the 8 minute target time.

· In Bungay, 26% of emergencies were responded to within the 8 minute target time.

· In Beccles, 53% of emergencies were responded to within the 8 minute target time. 

Ambulance services are required to respond to 75% of all category A (immediately life-threatening) patients within 8 minutes and, where needed, to provide transport to these calls within 19 minutes. 

Dr Poulter said; "As an NHS hospital doctor, I have always believed in the underlying principle that NHS services and treatment should be available to everyone, regardless of where they happen to live. Yet, as these figures show, residents in rural parts of Suffolk are contuinung to receive a second-rate ambulance service, despite assurances from the Chief Executive of the East of England Ambulance Trust last year that improvements would be made. 

It is unacceptable that ambulance response times are still slower in many parts of Suffolk than other counties in the East of England. Our paramedics in Suffolk work extremely hard and do an excellent job providing life-saving treatment to people on a daily basis, which is why it is essential that resources are directed to the frontline so that patients in rural areas can receive the same ambulance service as residents in more urban areas. 

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust has failed over recent years to meet targets for dispatching ambulances to life-threatening incidents in rural parts of Suffolk. It is important that responsibility is taken by the East of England Ambulance Trust."

Peter Aldous added; "For too long, residents in Waveney have been forced to suffer some of the worst ambulance response times in the East of England and, as these latest figures show, the situation on the ground is not improving. It is vital that delays in reaching critically injured patients in rural Suffolk are improved and I shall be working with fellow Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter to hold the East of England Ambulance Service to account."

Dr Dan Poulter On Ambulance Response Times

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: "The Trust is commissioned by the PCT to deliver the targets mentioned on a region wide annual basis, not at an individual town or village level, precisely to take into account the issues inherent in rural infrastructure and isolated locations as well as seasonal variations. We have calculated that to deliver a 75% rate in all rural locations would require an extra £80m of funding per year. We are however working with PCTs to look at the possibility of introducing floor targets."

They added that: "These figures are over the most challenging time of year covering the festive season and bad weather. We've just witnessed the best December ever, despite it being the second busiest in the Trust's history and have met our A8 target for 2011/12. The figures quoted are for postcode areas rather than only the towns and villages mentioned which include some very isolated locations and this inevitably has an impact. As the data shows there are a number of postcode areas where we've exceeded targets, although the Trust is focused on a quality service for all."  

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