Ambulance Response Times Criticised

Norman Lamb MP is calling for an urgent meeting with Hayden Newton, Chief Executive of the East of England Ambulance service as figures show that North Norfolk and Norfolk as a whole are under performing in ambulance response times compared to the rest of the region.

Norman Lamb said "North Norfolk isn't getting a fair deal. Why should we suffer worse response times compared to the region and even to the rest of Norfolk."

'I am keen to meet Hayden Newton to discuss how the East of England Ambulance Service can improve and address service delivery issues in rural communities."

The move comes after data requested by Mr. Lamb shows that during the period February 2010 to January 2011 North Norfolk and Norfolk are consistently behind other counties (on average) such as Essex in response times. North Norfolk's figures are also well below the Trust's own target figures suggesting that drastic improvements need to be made.

Response performance is measured against the Trust's A8 target. The requirement is for the ambulance service to reach 75% of category A calls within 8 minutes.

During the period North Norfolk's average performance was 52.65% compared to Norfolk 69.13% and Essex's 75.84%. The Trust's average for the period was 74.64% showing clearly that North Norfolk is under-performing.

Commenting Mr Lamb said: "These are shocking figures for North Norfolk in particular, and for Norfolk in general. Norfolk fell short of the regional target of 75% in every single month, and consistently got the worst deal of any county across the region - with only a few exceptions.

"I accept that it is more challenging in rural areas but these figures are very disturbing. We must demand an improved service in Norfolk."

Hayden Newton, Chief Executive of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “We are already well into the process of increasing the number of hours of cover in North Norfolk by nearly 70% following an in-depth analysis of the resources there. Three rapid response vehicles placed at key locations in the area will provide 336 hours cover a week, operating 16 hours a day, seven days a week compared to the 200 hours previously provided on a nine to five, Monday to Friday basis. Completion of this process is planned by the middle of next month.

“Rural areas present unique challenges in meeting time targets due to the nature of their infrastructure – particularly during the kind of severe weather we saw last winter –  along with the fact that demand cannot be predicted with the same kind of accuracy as in urban areas. However, while we are commissioned on a region-wide basis to meet national targets we are committed to improving our performance and the quality of service we provide to every patient.

“In addition to constantly monitoring and reviewing resource allocation to achieve optimum response times we are redesigning designing a more tailor made service for patients to ensure they get the care they really need, whether that’s at home, in hospital or by directing them to a more appropriate service. This will cut down on unnecessary hospital admissions and improve the experience for patients while enabling us to reach high priority emergencies more quickly.

“I have already invited Norman Lamb to discuss our future plans with myself and Alan Murray, our Director of Service Delivery.”