Concerns over 999 responses

CONCERNS were being raised last night about the continued failure of the region’s ambulance service to meet emergency response time targets set by the Government.

New figures show that just 68% of ambulances met the eight-minute response time target set for category A patients in Suffolk – those in the most urgent need of assistance.

And the news comes as a public sector workers’ union warned that the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) was “putting safety at risk” by signing a new contract with a private ambulance provider.

The figures, contained in a report on NHS Suffolk’s agenda for its board meeting next week, show that although Suffolk does not have its own ambulance response targets for EEAST to meet, the service is falling short of regional objectives which is to respond to 75% of calls from category A patients within eight minutes.

An EEAST spokesman said the failure was “in no small part” due to the bad weather over Christmas and the rural nature of the county.


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But Dr Daniel Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said he was “very concerned” that the organisation was failing to achieve its targets and that the excuses being given were not acceptable.

He said: “People in rural areas deserve to have a service that looks after them properly. While there may be mitigating factors, the fact is that the trust is not delivering a service to our rural residents.”

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An EEAST spokeswoman said patient care was its “number one priority” and acknowledged that it had been “a challenge” to meet the year’s targets, which were affected by “unprecedented conditions” and a surge in call demand over the winter.

As well as the response times, the EEAST has come under fire from UNISON for sealing a new deal with private ambulance provider Norvic.

Gary Applin, of the East of England Ambulance Service UNISON branch, said he was concerned about the arrangement as Norvic seemed to offer less training than the trust provides its own drivers with.

The trust spokeswoman said it had been using Norvic “successfully” for a decade, and that most of the work it carried out was non-emergency transport.”

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