Ambulance delays said to have claimed up to 81 patients’ lives in three weeks
- Credit: Archant
The crisis in East Anglia’s ambulance service over the Christmas and New Year holiday period could have contributed to 81 deaths, MPs have been told.
The figure for the three weeks over the turn of the year came from former health minister Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk during an emergency debate on the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) in the House of Commons.
There were only 11 MPs in the Chamber – most spend Fridays working in their constituencies.
His comments came as the EEAST published a seven-point plan to try to ease the crisis in the wake of this week’s risk summit on the service. Mr Lamb raised a number of concerns about EEAST and said regulator the Care Quality Commission told him the region’s ambulance trust was a “service in crisis”. He added: “I understand that there’s a further 120 incidents of potential patient harm associated with delays and that we’re talking about potentially up to 81 patients’ deaths in that period of time associated with delays.”
EEAST’s response to the risk summit includes increasing the number of vehicles and staff on call between now and Easter and trying to better predict when periods of high demand are likely to put increased pressure on them.
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It also plans to ask hospitals across the region to accept prompt handover of calls to allow vehicles to return to the road more quickly.
However Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin said the idea of hiring in more private staff did not address the real issue: “What is needed is more money for the ambulance service to have more staff and vehicles – and more money for hospitals to have more staff to deal with A&E cases. This cannot be allowed to be turned into an issue of privatisation.”
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Clacton Conservative MP Giles Watling also joined the debate after an 81-year-old woman in his constituency, Marie Norris, who was found dead five hours after she called for an ambulance with chest pains.
He said: “I’m heartened by the fact EEAST has got these measures to improve the service but the question arises straight away – why was it not there from the beginning.
It’s absolutely blatant that the management failed to take seriously enough the spike in delays that happened.”
Of Ms Norris’ case, Mr Watling added: “It’s appalling and my heart goes out to her family.”