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Ambulance response times revealed

PUBLISHED: 09:02 27 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:52 03 July 2010

RURAL areas are losing out when it comes to getting an ambulance quickly, according to new figures.

North Norfolk MP and Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb has obtained ambulance response times under the Freedom of Information Act.

RURAL areas are losing out when it comes to getting an ambulance quickly, according to new figures.

North Norfolk MP and Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb has obtained ambulance response times under the Freedom of Information Act. They show that Norfolk response times are slower than the east of England average, and that Great Yarmouth and Norwich were the best-performing areas in Norfolk.

Now the Last month, 90pc of emergency calls were reached in eight minutes in Norwich, but just 52pc in north Norfolk. The regional average was 73pc, while the Norfolk average was 70pc. The target across the country is 75pc, and since April has been measured from the moment the call is connected.

Faster response times are inevitable in urban areas where distances travelled are smaller, but Mr Lamb believes national pressure to meet the target is forcing the service to concentrate on urban areas.

He said: “The gap is large. I have no criticism of the ambulance trust, but when the new target came in last April it put more pressure on them. I do question whether there needs to be a separate target for rural areas to ensure good response times are achieved there as well. It is a worrying situation if having a stroke in a rural part of Norfolk means you don't get help in time.”

A letter to Mr Lamb from Anna Bennett, director of planning and performance at Norfolk PCT, acknowledges that the NHS Norfolk performance is less good than the regional average and the average for all of Norfolk, including Waveney. The letter says: “All three charts show an upward trend but do indicate a lower rate of improvement for Norfolk PCT.”

Ambulance trust chief executive Hayden Newton said the trust had made “considerable progress” in reaching the eight-minute target and across the region “has not only met but exceeded at times these standards”. He said: “The introduction of the call connect standards in April 2008 was always going to present challenges in the more rural areas. However, we are totally committed to providing an equitable service to everyone who lives and works in the whole of our area. We have carried out a detailed drive-time analysis in each of our districts to ensure that we are placing vehicles in key strategic locations which will optimise our ability to reach calls as quickly as possible. Call connect is a region-wide standard and our commissioning arrangements totally reflect this approach.”


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