Ambulance chief hits out at MP

THE chief executive of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust last night accused an MP of being “threatening and intimidating” after a furious row erupted over ambulance response times in Suffolk.

THE chief executive of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust last night accused an MP of being “threatening and intimidating” after a furious row erupted over ambulance response times in Suffolk.

Dr Chris Carney said Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley had been “hostile” in recent correspondence following the publication of performance figures.

The trust said it was happy with the figures, which showed it successfully responded to more than 75% of life threatening calls in the region within eight minutes - a target set by the Government.

But Mr Ruffley criticised the statistics, claiming they were misleading the public as too many Suffolk villages were being neglected by the trust.

Dr Carney said: “We are happy for Mr Ruffley to scrutinise our management and work. However, the nature of his recent correspondence we view as hostile and somewhat threatening and intimidating in nature, and we leave your readers to judge for themselves the fairness or otherwise of this.”

But Mr Ruffley denied that his comments were threatening and pledged to take up the matter of response times with ministers in Parliament.

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Mr Ruffley said: “I stand by what I said and I will be taking further action against the trust. I have not been threatening and I am just doing my job. I will be reporting this matter to ministers.”

The war of words between Mr Ruffley and the Trust began last month when the organisation published performance figures for the first six months of this year.

Mr Ruffley said the facts showed Elmswell was below the 75% national target for responding to life-threatening emergencies for five out of the six months of this year.

Great Barton and Thurston residents also endured similar problems, according to the MP, who said certain areas were given a second-rate service.

Last month , a spokesman for the trust said it was impossible to hit the same targets throughout every ward and described his comments as an example of “political mischief making”.

Now Mr Ruffley has continued his debate with the trust and has asked to see the organisation's annual reports.

In a letter to trust chief executive, Dr Chris Carney, Mr Ruffley demanded answers as to why these "sizeable villages" were below the targets.

He said: “You have made a grave personal and professional error in the way you have impugned the integrity of a member of parliament. You will find out just how grave an error in due course."

Mr Ruffley also said he was planning to take a “detailed interest” in the way Dr Carney manages the trust and asked to be sent annual reports for the last two years.

Under Government targets, the ambulance service has to respond to 75% of life threatening calls within eight minutes. Current figures for the first six months revealed it was operating at 77.15% in Suffolk, 76.9% in Norfolk and 76.04% in Cambridgeshire - an overall figure of 76.57%.

Last night Dr Carney said: “Mr Ruffley released a press statement, without informing us, implying that we were failing to meet targets to arrive within eight minutes on 75% of occasions in a series of wards in his constituency.

“We responded robustly to these assertions, defending our position and confirming that we are achieving all of the targets set for us by the Government and Primary Care Trusts who commission our service.

“Far from being misleading, these targets are transparent and the most demanding set by any Government in this country.

“We support entirely Mr Ruffley's right to ask questions on behalf of his constituents but reserve the right to defend ourselves if we believe these assertions not to be fair.

“Ambulance crews and responders have worked tirelessly in the past five years to move the trust from a failing organisation to a three-star trust, despite an increase in 999 calls of nearly 100 per cent, and we must defend their hard work and commitment.”

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