Paramedics in the East of England have called on health ministers to change a government-set target which they said was harming patients.

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The East of England Ambulance Service workers – including about a dozen from Norfolk – met health minister Earl Howe and MPs from across the region at Westminster tonight.

They say the ambulance service is currently exploiting a “loophole” that allows them to send rapid response vehicles to serious incidents to hit a target of arriving at 95pc of A-grade calls within 19 minutes – despite the fact that those vehicles cannot transport many of the patients to hospital.

This evening the paramedics called on the health minister to change the A19 target so that only call-outs answered by an ambulance could meet it.

One Norfolk paramedic said the meeting had been “positive” and added: “Today was about us asking for outside help.

“Our managers aren’t listening to what we are experiencing.

“We need the department of health to change that target.

“It’s ludicrous that you can claim a transportable target on a vehicle that can’t actually transport those patients to hospital.”

The paramedic said there were daily examples of the practice “causing patient harm” and warned sitting for long periods with sick patients was having a big effect on staff morale.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk and health minister, was among the politicians at the meeting.

He said the paramedics put across a strong case and he would be speaking to Earl Howe about the need for an “urgent review” of the A19 target.

He added: “These people are dedicated professionals who care passionately about their service. They find themselves very distressed about what is happening and the potential impact on patients.”

After the meeting, an East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said: “A19 is a national standard set by the department of health for all ambulance trusts.

“But interim chief executive Andrew Morgan, who was only appointed 10 weeks ago, would be very happy to meet up with representatives from the Change A19 group to discuss their concerns over this.

“The DH guidelines do not preclude using RRVs to transport patients when clinically safe to do so as, aside from a stretcher, they have the same equipment as an ambulance and are staffed by expert clinicians.”

The East of England Ambulance Service is reaching 93pc of A19 incidents in 19 minutes and less than 90pc in Norfolk and Suffolk.

For more information about the Change A19 campaign, visit www.changeA19.org or sign the e-petition at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42759

7 comments

  • Good to see Norman Lamb grinning . He always portrays himself as a concerned local MP . Actually he is Number Two in the Department of Health . Why doesn`t he accept some responsibility , and then DO SOMETHING to remedy the situation ?

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    dragonfly

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

  • Good to see a grinning Mr Lamb did not miss the photo shoot. Something to smile about ? All the talk about targets and response times is just smoke and mirrors. Budgets cannot be drastically cut and the level of service maintained. Mr Lamb was adament about protecting the NHS and services before he and his party became the Nu Tories, now he is part of the problem.

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    norman hall

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

  • In the national standards, key wording says that a vehicle capable of transporting must to so in "a clinically safe manner". I'm in conversation with the ambulance service through their facebook site, (now they've unblocked me from commenting) and am still waiting to hear what patients they believe can be transported in a car in "a clinically safe manner". Is the paramedic driving expected to keep observing the patient whils en-route to hospital, or maintain full concentration on driving the vehicle? Its not possible to do both. In what situation can a patient be safelt transported by car? Even an isolated hand injury, you sure the patient isn't going to feel faint from pain and need to lay down? National guidelines state that: "The Rapid Response Vehicle or First Responder may be the only response if the Ambulance Service determines that the Emergency Ambulance can be cancelled. Otherwise an Emergency Ambulance will attend". That is every emergency, a fully crewed ambulance will be initially dispatched, only then being cancelled if its deemed that a single-responder can deal without assistance. But the key point is that initially a fully-crewed ambulance must be dispatched. This obligation clearly isn't being kept to by the EEAST. (ex-paramedic)

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    terryhewitt

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

  • Andrew Morgan said: “The DH guidelines do not preclude using RRVs to transport patients when clinically safe to do so as, aside from a stretcher, they have the same equipment as an ambulance and are staffed by expert clinicians.” So he believes that its appropriate for patients to be transported, along with maybe ECG monitoring, pulse oximitery, constant onservation of their vital signs, pulse, level of consciousness, skin colour etc, in the back of a car, with the paramedic concentrating on driving the vehicle, and checking over his shoulder? Staggering.

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    terryhewitt

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

  • If, after hearing the facts from the front line staff and comparing them to the idiotic statement of Andrew Morgan, the ministers cannot see where the problem is then there is no hope for any of us. Andrew Morgan, and therfore the Board and managers of EEAST, have no idea of the problems being encountered by the front end staff and are therefore not fit or purpose and should be replaced with immediate effect. Those that placed the contract with EEAST should also review their validation system. If, as stated the only difference between a RRV and an Ambulance is a stretcher (and obviously another medical professional which seemed to have been ignored) then a value for money assessment rated against patient care must clearly show that the management of EEAST have not got a clue.

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    Roy Gooch

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

  • I can see where Lamb is heading with this one - straight to Hunt's office - if we modify targets in the right way it will mask the underlying problem of inadequate funding post cuts.

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    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

  • So did they actually mention the cuts and the poor response times or was this a PR exercise about something that won't actually improve the time it takes to get to hospital? Lamb wanted political heads to roll over the Mid Staffs crisis but so far I don't see him taking responsibility as a health minister for the ambulance crisis on his own doorstep.

    Report this comment

    Jeffrey Osborne

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

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