MP questions ambulance response times

AMBULANCE response time figures are being “disguised” to cover up poor performance in certain areas, an Essex MP has claimed.

Elliot Furniss

AMBULANCE response time figures are being “disguised” to cover up poor performance in certain areas, an Essex MP has claimed.

Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, has called for more “transparency” in the breakdown of the figures, which reveal how long it takes ambulances to respond to emergencies.

Essex is served by the East of England Ambulance Trust, which also covers Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

The trust was created in 2006 after three smaller services merged and Mr Jenkin feels the figures the new trust releases represent a broad performance from across the region but do not reflect any specific examples of good or poor standards.

Mr Jenkin has now called on Health Secretary Alan Johnson to release figures on ambulance response times in Colchester and Tendring.

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He said: “Previously, separate data was available for emergency response times for both Colchester and Tendring. Now information is only available for a certain region.

“I suspect this is because historically, response times in Tendring were much poorer than in Colchester. A regional average figure disguises this.

“It is crucial that separate data is available for each district so that poor results can be examined and improved rather than covered up and good results can be praised.”

Mr Jenkin has already tabled a Parliamentary written question asking for the separate information and was told that such information was only available for the whole of the region.

He added: “I was never in favour of having regional ambulance services. This is breathtaking manipulation. We know where they have difficulties but the figures should be explained, not hidden from public view.

“What have I got to do - make a freedom of information request?”

A spokesman for the Department of Health rejected any allegations that figures were being disguised.

He said: “As the parliamentary answer provided to Mr Jenkins makes clear, we have always collected data on ambulance response times from each ambulance trust as a whole. These are never broken down to specific areas within a trust's boundaries.

“Ambulance response times are better than ever, a fact confirmed by the independent health watchdog, the Healthcare Commission.

“We expect the ambulance service to ensure that response times are consistently met across their entire area.”

Last night, Gary Sanderson, spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “I would ask Mr Jenkin to make contact with our Chelmsford's head office on 01245 443344 and they will most willing to assist in his enquiry.”