May 20 2013 Latest news:
By Lauren Everitt
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
FIRE union chiefs have launched a blistering attack on the East of England Ambulance Service, saying failing response times are like a “gaping wound”.
AN EEAST spokesman said: “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.”
The spokesman added that EEAST has a raft of measures planned to improve response times including 140 new frontline staff, more powers at local level, new cars staffed by advance paramedics to treat less serious patients in their home and better designed rotas. The measures are due to come into force in two months time.
He said: “Under these plans our main focus will be on the quality of services and compassion to patients, and giving practical support to hospitals to enable faster turnaround times.”
The criticism comes as new figures, published in a report to be discussed at tomorrow’s NHS Suffolk board meeting, show EEAST failed to respond to category ‘red’ patients – those in an immediately life-threatening condition – within both the eight-minute and 19-minute targets.
In November, 68.6% of ‘red’ calls were responded to within eight minutes and 88.9% within 19 minutes in Suffolk compared to the national target of 75% and 95% respectively.
Keith Handscomb, regional representative for the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Something needs to be done but looking for a sticking plaster to treat a gaping wound is not the answer. For those who find themselves in medical emergencies, this is a matter of life or death importance.”
He added: “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 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.”
Mr Handscomb said the number of staff across all three emergency services in East Anglia are being cut.
“A little extra first aid training for police officers and firefighters might sound like a cheap solution to ambulance delays, but when any of us find ourselves in a serious medical emergency, what we really, really need, really, really quickly, are professional paramedics and ambulance crews to treat us and take us to hospital,” he added.
An NHS Suffolk spokesman said the organisation was working with EEAST to ensure response times meet the national benchmark.
“Patients in rural and urban communities who need urgent treatment should be able to access this easily, quickly and consistently,” he added.
“The rural nature of Suffolk can make meeting these targets more difficult than in other parts of the county.”