East: Firefighters Concerned About Ambulance Response Times

29 January 2013, 06:00

The Fire Brigades Union have told Heart they are worried about the time it takes for paramedics to get to the scene of a crash or fire.

Last week police also raised concerns about how long it was taking to get medical help at the scene of an incident.

But the East of England Ambulance have told Heart they prioritise life-threatening injuries which means minor incidents can take longer to get to.

Keith Handscomb from the Fire Brigades Union told Heart: “The concerns of the police come as no surprise to us. We applaud the skills and commitment of the professional paramedics and ambulance crews we work alongside but fire crews are telling us something is going seriously wrong with the 999 response of the East England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST). Fire crews tell us they and casualties are waiting longer and longer for the arrival of paramedics and ambulances. When a paramedic does arrive they are often on their own in a car or on a motorbike and are unable to take seriously injured casualties to hospital. Fire officers tell us of their desperate frustration at being told to wait in line when chasing up emergency requests for the attendance of an ambulance – sometimes they are told the ambulance sent to their emergency has been redirected to another call due to there being no other ambulance available. And we have received reports where EEAST have sent a private ambulance to casualties in a road traffic accident without either of the crew apparently having the professional medical skills needed to deal with the emergency."

The East of England Ambulance Service have given Heart the following statement: “Often it is not the case that ambulances are unavailable, simply that the information we are given from the scene indicates a non emergency, so the patient is given a longer waiting time than one in a life-threatening condition under the national prioritisation system.
“We have already revealed plans to improve our response times with a raft of measures but it is important to remember response targets are set from between eight minutes to an hour according to thoroughly assessed clinical need and, while a longer target may not be ideal for police and fire crews, it means those in life-threatening situations are prioritised, similar to the way they are at A&E, to get life-saving help first.
“We want to do everything possible as emergency services to help one another, and we take genuine delays seriously so would therefore urge concerned fire and police officers to contact us about specific case details so it can be properly investigated.”