Paramedics face massive rise in calls

AMBULANCE crews in East Anglia now attend more than 100,000 additional emergencies a year than they did five years ago, shock new figures have revealed.

By Danielle Nuttall

AMBULANCE crews in East Anglia now attend more than 100,000 additional emergencies a year than they did five years ago, shock new figures have revealed.

Paramedics in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire responded to 64,300 extra call-outs last year compared to 2000-01 - up from 114,000 to 178,400.

Meanwhile, Essex crews were called-out to 52,100 more incidents, from 114,700 to 166,800 in 2005-06.


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Last night, the increasing number of mobile phone users was named as one of the reasons for the massive increases - and ambulance chiefs also said 80% of 999 calls to the service are not genuine emergencies.

The figures were revealed in a new national report on NHS ambulance trust performance across the country.

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A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service - into which the East Anglian Ambulance Service and Essex Ambulance NHS Trust have now merged - said a range of factors accounted for the massive increase in emergency call-outs since 2000-01.

“Mobile phones undoubtedly have something to do with it, particularly accidents on the roads. People believe in the service and their expectations of the NHS are now higher, which means they expect a response more quickly,” he said.

“There is a rise in the number of elderly people requiring care and a rise in the number of elderly people with breathing difficulties which requires an ambulance response.

“There is no one reason exactly why there is such a large increase. The fact it's happened right across the UK suggests it's not just this patch that's affected.”

The spokesman admitted pressure on the service had increased with the extra call-outs, but said a number of improvements had been made to ease this.

“In Essex, many millions of pounds extra have allowed hundreds of extra frontline staff to be made available,” he said.

“There has been a large increase in the number of staff and the quality of ambulances, with newer vehicles. There was the introduction of emergency care practitioners (who treat people at the scene without taking them into hospital). That has made a difference,” he added.

Ambulance crews are expected to attend 75% of category A call-outs - life-threatening or extremely serious - within eight minutes.

The East Anglian Ambulance Service achieved 75.9% last year while Essex Ambulance Trust saw a performance of 77.1%. Both also exceeded the 95% target in relation to responding to category A calls within a maximum of 19 minutes.

The news comes as the Department of Health gave the East of England Ambulance Service a clean bill of health when it comes to reporting its performance figures.

Dr Chris Carney, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “I had every confidence in the reporting methods each of the old trusts used for recording response times.

“Since the new trust was launched at the beginning of July, we have continued using the robust systems which were in place to ensure the way we work is transparent and consistent.”

But he added: “What is of concern to us is the continuing high demand for our services that we are experiencing right across the six counties. Many emergency calls were easily preventable with a little forward planning.

“The people of the East of England undoubtedly have a role to play in ensuring that calls are appropriate. Around 80% of 999 calls to the ambulance service are not genuine emergencies. In fact, 30% of calls do not require any hospital treatment.

“Ambulances are mainly there to respond to life-threatening emergencies. We would ask people to use all sectors of the NHS so that patients get the right treatment at the right time for them.”

1. Keeping a well stocked medicine cabinet will help you with many common illnesses

2. From sprains to stomach upsets, your local pharmacist is qualified to give expert advice without an appointment

3. If you need more advice for you and your family, contact NHS Direct. You can do this 24 hours a day by ringing 0845 46 47 for free expert health advice and reassurance. You can also contact them on-line at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

4. For injections, prescriptions, medical advice and care, call for an appointment with your GP or practice nurse. Many surgeries will be able to see you that day or book you an appointment within 48-hours. All surgeries have an out of hours provision throughout the night and at weekends

5. If you are worried about the sudden onset of new symptoms or have suffered a serious injury or illness, then you should go to A&E or call 999 as soon as possible.

6. In a real emergency, do not hesitate to call 999.

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