Therese Coffey says East of England ambulance response time figures don’t show positive truth

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal

A Suffolk MP has said the figures showing the performance of the region’s ambulance service over the last decade do not reflect recent improvements.

A Suffolk MP has said the figures showing the performance of the region’s ambulance service over the last decade do not reflect recent improvements.

Therese Coffey, who represents Suffolk Coastal in parliament, was speaking after figures showed ambulance response time success in the East of England had slipped in the 10 years from 2005.

Data collected by Health and Social Care Information Centre has compared the emergency response times of the 11 ambulance services operating in the country.

For Category A calls, the most serious incidents, ambulance services are supposed to reach 75% of calls within eight minutes.

In 2005/06, when it was the East Anglian Ambulance Service covering just Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, the service recorded a success rate of 76.6%, beaten only by the West Midlands Ambulance Service. Since June 2012, category A calls have been split into Red 1 (most time-critical) and Red 2 (serious but less time-critical).

In the 2013/14 financial year, covering the above counties along with Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, the performance of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) had fallen to 73.6%, the third worst success rate.

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The best-performing service in 2013/14 for Red 1 calls was the Isle of Wight with 80.2% and for Red 2 calls it was the North East Ambulance Service with 78.9%.

However Dr Coffey felt the average yearly figures were doing a disservice to the current trust. “This is all down to the effect that Labour destroyed the ethos of patient care,” she said. “There are now more paramedics and more ambulances out there.”

Specific breakdowns for the service in the Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk areas were not included. Dr Coffey said this meant the figures were “all over the place”.

In March the former division recorded its best Red 1 response figures for more than a year and beat the 75% target with a success rate of 81.32%.

Dr Coffey added she wanted to assure people she would continue to keep an eye on the service’s performance.

Anthony Marsh, current chief executive for EEAST, said: “When I joined the trust at the beginning of 2014, we were one of the worst performing trusts in the country. By putting in place an ambitious plan to recruit hundreds more paramedics, newer ambulances and upskilling staff, we are now regularly the best performing.

“Our improving performance in Suffolk is down to the continued hard work of our frontline staff and the result of the major recruitment drive and changes made over the last year to improve responses and patient care.

“But we know we have more work to do, which is why we are recruiting another 400 student paramedics this year, many of of whom will be based in the county.”