Call to improve ambulance responses

MPs have demanded that ambulances respond quicker to life-threatening rural emergencies.

The joint call was made by Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich; and Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney in north-east Suffolk.

Ambulance services are required to respond to 75% of life-threatening emergencies within eight minutes and, where needed, to provide transport to these calls within 19 minutes.

But the MPs have highlighted statistics showing response times in parts of rural Suffolk falling below the eight-minute target time.

In Framlingham, for example, 27% of emergencies were responded to within the eight-minute target time between December 2011 and March 2012.

A similar picture is painted for Mendham (35%), Debenham (35%), Stradbroke (31%), Eye (30%), Bungay (26%) and Beccles (53%).

Dr Poulter said: "As an NHS hospital doctor, I have always believed in the underlying principle that NHS services and treatment should be available to everyone, regardless of where they happen to live."

Yet residents in rural parts of Suffolk were receiving a second-rate ambulance service.

Dr Poulter said: "It is unacceptable that ambulance response times are still slower in many parts of Suffolk than other counties in the East of England."

He added: "It is essential that resources are directed to the frontline so that patients in rural areas can receive the same ambulance service as residents in more urban areas."

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said it exceeded national response time standards in the latest monthly report published by the Department of Health.

The service had beaten the target for getting to 75% of potentially life-threatening calls within eight minutes in March – coming joint fourth out of 12 ambulance services in the country.

It had also exceeded the target for the whole year.

The achievement had come about as a result of a comprehensive programme to improve the 999 service for patients in the east of England.

Chief executive Hayden Newton said hard work from staff, volunteers and managers in delivering improvements for patients had paid off in better results.

"We have now exceeded the national target for getting to 75% of high priority calls within eight minutes over the year and can now look forward to building on those improvements even further going forward into the next 12 months.

"We will continue to focus on giving patients the right care in the right place at the right time and reducing patient handover times at hospitals."

The ambulance service responded to 19,659 red category calls in March, getting to 15,010 within eight minutes, a 76.21% rate on the 75% target.

For those red category calls requiring a double staffed ambulance (19,569) to transport to hospital, 18,657 arrived within 19 minutes, a 95.34% rate against the 95% national target.


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