Plea for ambulance improvements made

Ambulance chiefs have admitted that a deterioration in response times to emergency calls in Northumberland is a concern.

Thursday, 17th March 2016, 7:49 am
Ambulance in Berwick

Figures show that North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) responded to 68 per cent of ‘red’ calls within eight minutes in the Northumberland area between April and December.

This falls below the Government’s target of 75 per cent.

Mark Cotton, NEAS assistant director of communications, acknowledged the figure was ‘disappointing’ at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area committee in East Ord on Monday night.

“From April last year to the end of February, that eight minute target figure has gradually declined,” he said. “We are not achieving our performance targets in either Northumberland or across the whole of the service area.”

However, he eased concerns that the rural north was faring worst by pointing out that emergency response figures for the TD15 postcode area stood at about 72 per cent.

Hilary Brown, of Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), also a managing partner at the Well Close Medical Group in Berwick, said: “It is a great concern to Northumberland CCG that NEAS is not hitting response targets and we continue to work very closely with them to raise those figures to 75 per cent. We need to see an increase in performance.”

A concern was ambulances being taken away from the north of the county for long periods.

Some ambulances making the trip to the new emergency hospital at Cramlington were having to wait there until patients could be admitted. The number of patients there had been much higher than anticipated. Ambulances were often being redirected to other emergency calls while in the south of the county rather than making the return journey north.

NEAS said there were other reasons for the decline in performance. It is receiving more ‘red’ calls than it used to and paramedics are spending longer at the scene of incidents because they are better trained to provide treatment.

An appeal was made for more people to volunteer as community first responders.

Residents voiced their support for the return of a second 24/7 ambulance at Berwick. It currently has one 24/7 ambulance and a 12-hour crew.

Rae Huntly, of Ord Parish Council, said: “We need to be looked at as a special case. We should have a second 24/7 ambulance. The ambulance can be out of the area for hours, leaving us with no cover in Berwick. I know NEAS shuffles up crews from Belford and Alnwick but most people don’t think that is satisfactory.”