Suffolk: Action call over 999 responses

AN MP has renewed his call for an overhaul at the top of the ambulance service after new figures revealed response time targets were still not being achieved.

The figures, published in a report to be discussed at tomorrow’s NHS Suffolk board meeting, show that the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) failed to respond to category A patients - those in an immediately life-threatening condition - within both the eight-minute and 19-minute targets.

MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Dr Dan Poulter said: “It’s very disappointing that the management of the service are still letting down patients in Suffolk.

“While we can’t judge the service on just one month’s response times, there’s been a consistent pattern over a number of years whereby rural counties like Suffolk are getting a raw deal from the service and that has got to change.

“If the current chief executive and management team can’t deliver that it may well be time for a new team at the top.”

Figures showed just 66% of ‘red’ category calls were responded to within eight-minutes with the current year-to-date performance standing at 69.2%. The national target is 75%.

The 19-minute response time has also fallen to 88.1% from the year-to-date performance of 90.2%. The national benchmark is 95%.

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An EEAST spokeswoman said: “The fraction of a percent decrease in Suffolk and across the Trust was due to the adverse weather and a 14% unforeseen rise in demand in February but it is important to remember that ambulance services are measured annually to allow for these kind of inevitable monthly variations.

“The Trust is also commissioned to meet a regional target although we are actively discussing with commissioners the possibility of introducing county based floor targets.

“Hospital hand over times are another issue highlighted in the report and these do affect ambulance performance as crews are unavailable while queuing to hand over patients but we continue to work with hospitals to reduce these waits.”

EEAST received a total of 70,320 calls from February 1 to February 28, 2012 compared to 61,695 during the same period in 2011.

The NHS Suffolk report also highlighted one patient faced an 11 hour and 32-minute wait instead of the targeted six-hours while at Ipswich Hospital.

Jan Ingle, from Ipswich Hospital, said: “In this case there were some very specific circumstances where the person involved was actually a prison inmate and the reason they waited so long was awaiting secure transport back to the prison.”