Patients wait far too long for ambulance

The Horncastle News can reveal 40 per cent of patients with life threatening conditions have to wait longer than they should for a paramedic.

East Midlands Ambulance Service look set to make major changes to the way it operates in an attempt to improve response times.

National performance standards set by the Department of Health for Category A emergencies state 75 per cent of cases involving patients in life threatening circumstances should be reached within eight minutes and in 95 per cent of cases within 19 minutes.

To gauge performance in our area, the News requested data under the Freedom of 
Information Act 2000 to 
discover how EMAS fared in meeting its targets for the 17,805 Category A responses it made where lives were at risk
 in postcode areas within a 
12-mile radius of Horncastle between July 1 2010 and June 30 2012.

The data revealed that around 40 per cent of patients suffering from a life threatening condition - such as a heart attack - had to wait more than eight minutes for attention.

And in more than one fifth of those cases, the response time exceeded 19 minutes.

In 30 cases more than one hour passed before an ambulance reached a patient and in 504 cases the response time exceeded 30 minutes.

EMAS refused to disclose the furthest distance an ambulance had to travel to reach a patient, claiming the estimated cost of retrieving the information would exceed £450.

A spokesman for EMAS, said: “The ambulance 
performance standards are annual targets measured across the whole area we serve.

“We have worked hard to 
improve our results and our year to date figure for Category A8 life threatening conditions is above the national standard.

“The Category A19 performance standard measures the time it takes for an ambulance to arrive on scene so a patient can be transported to hospital.

“In many cases, clinical support and life saving treatment is already being provided to the patient by ambulance staff who arrived on scene in a fast response vehicle prior to the ambulance.

“We are required to hit the A19 target for 95 per cent of calls and our year to date figure is currently 0.5 per cent short.”

This may sound promising but figures published at show EMAS to be one of England’s worst performing services during 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 when compared to the country’s 11 other ambulance trusts.

All trusts from 2011-2012, including EMAS, met or exceeded the 75 per cent standard for Category A eight-minute response times.

Despite achieving 75.2 per cent, EMAS was still ranked bottom of the 12 trusts.

But it was a marked improvement on the 2010-2011 figures for EMAS when it was one of five trusts to fall short of the 75 per cent standard, achieving the lowest rating of all 12 trusts with 72.4 per cent.

In a bid to improve response times, EMAS has announced radical plans under its Being the Best programme to replace most of its 66 ambulance stations with 131 community posts, standby points and hubs.

Just five of the proposed 13 hubs - where staff collect an ambulance to begin a shift - would be in Lincolnshire and 28 community posts and standby points would be spread county-wide.

EMAS medical director Dr James Gray said: “The changes we are proposing are all about improving our performance, that is how quickly we respond to all life-threatening 999 calls”

But Horncastle’s mayor, Coun Fiona Martin doubts this would be the case.

She said: “I’m very concerned how this will affect response times because already the response times in rural Lincolnshire are not good.

“It’s not a good use of professional time and resources. Just because we’re a large sparsely populated county doesn’t mean we’re not entitled to a good, quick service. I can’t see how downgrading the county’s ambulance service is going to help improve response times.”

The Being the Best consultation ends on December 17 and a decision is expected in January.

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