Suffolk/Essex: Complaints over ambulance service nearly double in just two years
PUBLISHED: 13:06 03 September 2012 | UPDATED: 13:06 03 September 2012
WRITTEN complaints to the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) have nearly doubled in just two years, new figures reveal.
The trust, which is trying to make efficiency savings of more than £50million over the next five years, received 686 grievances in 2011/12, compared with 356 two years ago.
But EEAS – whose coverage area includes Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk – said it has seen a 6% hike in call numbers and that it has received nearly 2,000 compliments over the same period.
Earlier this year Suffolk MP Dan Poulter criticised the service for failing to hit response time targets in rural areas.
Figures revealed that between mid-December 2011 and the end of March this year the service fell short of responding to 75% of critical patients within eight minutes.
The complaints figures, released by the NHS, show among Suffolk hospitals, James Paget in Gorleston had the biggest increase over the last three years, while Ipswich saw a drop.
In Essex, Colchester Hospital University Trust saw written complaints fall from 1,076 in 2009/10 to 551 in 2011/12.
A spokeswoman for EEAS said: “Last year – April 2011 to March 2012 – we received 686 complaints, representing less than 0.2% of our total activity, which compared to nearly three times the number of compliments at 1,902 along with thank-you donations totalling more than £130,000.
“As well as a call rise of more than 6% issues related to the increase in complaints include public perception not matching the responsibility of the 999 service, with the majority of response time complaints relating to non-urgent patients, where the response target time is one hour, as well as hospital handover delays.
“Work is continuing with hospitals and the local primary care trusts to help resolve this issue and reduce the pressure on the ambulance service, enabling us to reach our patients more quickly.
“We are also embarking on a public education programme to better inform patients of our response time targets for different call priorities.
“We have robust investigation procedures in place to ensure that learning from the experiences of our patients, positive and negative, can help us improve our service and prevent any adverse incidents from recurring.”