Ambulance statistics cause alarm

A Berwick councillor has raised fresh concerns about ambulance response times in north Northumberland.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 04 February, 2016, 06:16
Ambulance in Berwick

The eight-minute measure for emergency calls in the Northumberland CCG area fell to 57 per cent in December, down from 75 per cent in May.

Councillor Gavin Jones raised his concerns at a North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) governors’ council meeting in Newcastle.

He said: “I welcome the fact that the staff shortage issues are starting to be addressed; however, the response times are still deteriorating and this is alarming.

“I appreciate the hard work that all of the paramedic, technician and other support staff on the ground do; however, the leadership team need to be held to account by the directors and governors for falling response rates.

“The single most important function of an ambulance service is ensuring that the right vehicle with the right crew arrives at the scene within the appropriate time.

“This is an important concern for Berwick and I will continue to lobby and campaign to improve ambulance response times.”

NEAS has admitted that the festive period was a demanding one but points out that response rates often dip in the winter.

A NEAS spokesperson said: “December and January are always our busiest time of the year – and 2015/16 was no different. NEAS is funded to achieve a performance target for the whole of the North East.

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“Our latest figures show we are currently about 3% under the national target of reaching 75% of all emergency calls in 8-minutes or less.

“In 2015 we met this target in Northumberland 68% of the time – and in 89% of emergencies within Northumberland, we arrived with 19-minutes.

“The Christmas period was very demanding across the whole of the North East due to a number of factors, including a national shortage of paramedics and delays at hospitals.”

It was just over a year ago when the ambulance issue was thrust into the spotlight when 16-year-old Kyle Lowes, from Eyemouth, died in a road accident in Berwick.

It took 26 minutes for an ambulance to attend and, tragically, Kyle died at the scene. It later emerged that an ambulance was on standby in Berwick at the time, but that the crew there were not contacted immediately as they were on a scheduled break.

Following pressure from Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review of break protocol of ambulance crews.

Mr Hunt has instructed the chair of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, Dr Anthony Marsh, to find a solution and report back by April.

There are different interpretations of the rules throughout the country, but in many cases ambulance crews are not informed of 999 calls in their vicinity if they are on a scheduled break meaning responding crews have to be brought in from further afield, often creating a delay.