999 response times putting ‘lives at risk’

Yorkshire Ambulance Service
Yorkshire Ambulance Service

LIVES are at risk as ambulances in the East Riding take too long to respond to patients in an emergency, according to new figures.

Last year, only 68.4 per cent of ambulances responded to emergency 999 calls within the Government standard eight minutes -– well below the national target of 75 per cent.

This means that more than 5,000 seriously ill people in the East Riding were not visited by an ambulance as quickly as they should have been.

This is down slightly on the previous year, when 69.4 per cent of ambulances reached patients within the eight minute target.

Eight minutes is said to be the maximum survival time for heart attack patients without treatment, and since its introduction in 2001, the target has been credited with saving almost 2,000 heart attack patients every year.

However, the trust say that one reason for the poor response times is because of the number of incidents involving Category A patients – classed as ‘immediately life threatening’ – increased in the East Riding by just under nine per cent, from 14,601 in 09/10, to 15881 last year.

Paul Mudd, assistant director of A&E Operations for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Our priority is to respond to all emergency calls as quickly as possible, and we are constantly developing services to ensure we provide the best care for our patients.

“In view of the growing demand for our emergency service throughout the region, including in the East Riding of Yorkshire area, we are working hard to make further improvements to our emergency response times.

“In Bridlington during the last 18 months we have increased the number of clinical staff based in the town and are planning to add further staff during 2011.

“We will continue work with our primary care trust commissioners to ensure we reach patients in all areas of Yorkshire – both urban and rural – as quickly as possible. This means continually reviewing the staffing and vehicles we have in each area, and the way they operate, to best meet the needs of local communities.

“Response times are not the only measure of the service we provide to our patients and we are also very proud of the high quality clinical care given by our staff.”

The figures have led to calls for the trust to improve it’s response times in the East Riding.

Mick Pilling, of the Save Bridlington Hospital Campaign Action Group, believes the trust is failing to hit targets in Bridlington as there is too much pressure on existing staff in the town.

He has called for more vehicles and greater staffing levels for the town, or a return of services to Bridlington Hospital.

“The more services that are moved away from Bridlington, the greater the strain will be on the ambulance staff.

“If an ambulance has to go from Bridlington to Scarborough Hospital with a patient, that is nearly a 40 mile round trip.

“There is also a stacking system at Scarborough, so in some cases ambulances have to wait at the hospital as ambulances carrying passengers from Scarborough, Whitby or Malton may have arrived first and are in the process of being booked in.

“Staff are having to drive with lights and sirens the whole way there and back, which is very stressful.

“On an evening, there may only be two ambulances and an ambulance car for the whole of Bridlington, and if all of these were on there way to or from Scarborough Hospital, response times are obviously affected.

“It’s not good enough for a town our size. There are around 40,000 residents out of season, but more than double that when tourists are here.”

Figures also show that Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust failed to meet Government targets for responding to Category B patients – those classed as having conditions described as ‘serious but non life-threatening’.

Only 89.6 per cent were reached within the Government standard nineteen minutes, below the national target of 95 per cent.