Ambulance service complaints nearly double in two years

PUBLISHED: 18:10 03 September 2012 | UPDATED: 09:32 04 September 2012

East of England Ambulance Service.

East of England Ambulance Service.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

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 £50m over the next five years, received 686 grievances in 2011/12, compared with 356 two years ago. But EEAS said it has seen a 6pc hike in call numbers and that it has received nearly 2,000 compliments over the same period.

The ambulance service has been heavily criticised in the past couple of years for its under performance in meeting response times in rural areas. It is currently embarking on a controversial and radical redesign of where its response vehicles will be based, and what hours of cover they will provide.

A spokesman for EEAS said: “Last year – April 2011 to March 2012 – we received 686 complaints, representing less than 0.2pc 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 6pc, 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.”

The complaints figures, released by the NHS, show the James Paget in Gorleston had the biggest increase over the last three years for Norfolk and Suffolk hospitals, from 331 complaints in 2009/10 to 439 in 2001/12.

The corresponding figures for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn were 458 rising to 516, for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital they were 744 and 751, and for the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds 215 to 180.

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