999 crews miss time targets
PATIENTS' lives could be at risk because ambulance crews are failing to meet crucial response targets in Norfolk, it was claimed last night.The East of England Ambulance Service has been criticised for not getting an ambulance out quickly enough, particularly in some rural areas of the county.
PATIENTS' lives could be at risk because ambulance crews are failing to meet crucial response targets in Norfolk, it was claimed last night.
The East of England Ambulance Service has been criticised for not getting an ambulance out quickly enough, particularly in some rural areas of the county.
Under government targets, a minimum of 75pc of emergency calls should be responded to within eight minutes and while the rest of the region's crews are meeting the targets, they are failing in Norfolk.
Last month 67pc of calls were met within eight minutes and in May 66pc - this is the time someone calls 999 to when paramedics actually reach a patient.
Ambulance bosses admit they are struggling to get to patients within this time because some rural locations are “harder to reach” and because they have been low on resources - but say there are now measures in place to improve on this.
But North Norfolk MP and Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said last night that meeting the response times could mean the “difference between life and death”.
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“It is deplorable that Norfolk continues to fail to meet this target,” he said.
“We have this crazy situation where an ambulance trust can satisfy the government target by hitting an average of 75pc across the whole region but this masks the fact they are failing month after month to hit the target Norfolk.
“These delays can make a difference to some one living or dying. It looks like there is continuous investment in the south of the region while Norfolk is being neglected.
“This is unfair on patients in the county and has been dragging on for too long now. We need to see some changes immediately.”
Concerns have been voiced for some months by NHS Norfolk bosses that the county was getting a poor deal and the ambulance service was investing in built up areas where targets are more attainable.
During one month last year just 52pc of calls were being met in eight minutes in North Norfolk.
Darren Maguire, the ambulance service operational general manager for Norfolk, admitted it was “a struggle” in some areas of Norfolk.
“We are commissioned as a regional service and national targets have to be met on a regional basis,” he said. “We are hitting this target as a trust and we are actually in the top four in the country.
“Norfolk is a very diverse area and we do struggle sometimes. There are big market towns as well as remote rural areas which gives us quite a challenge.
“We are working on improving efficiency of the resources we have. We have already taken on 10 more call takers which means our call handling has got better. Since January we have increased staff by 50, which is starting to make a real difference. There are also six student paramedics who will finish their course this week.”
The ambulance service has seen a 10pc rise in the number of calls it takes - in May alone there were 6,754 calls - but Mr Maguire insists, despite this, response times have improved by 1pc.
He added that a “significant amount” of hours were lost during turnaround times at acute hospitals. Due to increasing pressure at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital it is not always possible to turn round within the targeted 30 minutes because it can take longer for a patient to be admitted to A&E if the hospital is full.