MPs criticise ‘second-rate’ ambulance performance in rural Suffolk
10:16 02 May 2012
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009
Two MPs have joined together to demand an improvement in ambulance response times in rural Suffolk after calling the service “second-rate”.
Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, and Waveney MP Peter Aldous have called for urgent action after figures showed that many people living in rural areas of the county were having to wait longer than the target times.
The service is required to respond to 75pc of life-threatening emergencies within eight minutes, and provide transport within 19 minutes, but the figures show that between December 2011 and March this year, 26pc of emergencies around the Bungay postcode area were responded to within the eight minute target time, with 30pc around Eye, 31pc around Stradbroke, 35pc around Mendham and 53pc around Beccles.
The response within 19 minutes was 66pc for Bungay, 56pc for Eye, 56pc for Stradbroke, 40pc for Mendham and 78pc for Beccles.
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, as these figures show, residents in rural parts of Suffolk are continuing to receive a second-rate ambulance service, despite assurances from the chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Trust last year that improvements would be made.
“It is unacceptable that ambulance response times are still slower in many parts of Suffolk than other counties in the East of England.”
Mr Aldous added: “For too long, residents in Waveney have been forced to suffer some of the worst ambulance response times in the East of England and, as these latest figures show, the situation on the ground is not improving.
“It is vital that delays in reaching critically injured patients in rural Suffolk are improved.”
A spokesman for the ambulance service said that the figures were at the most challenging time of year and that the trust had its best December ever, while it had also met its target for the year, with targets in some postcode areas exceeded.
She said: “The Trust is commissioned by the PCT to deliver the targets mentioned on a region-wide annual basis, not at an individual town or village level, precisely to take into account the issues inherent in rural infrastructure and isolated locations as well as seasonal variations.
“We have calculated that to deliver a 75pc rate in all rural locations would require an extra £80m of funding per year. We are, however, working with PCTs to look at the possibility of introducing floor targets.”
The Lowestoft area response rates were 75pc within eight minutes and 97pc within 19 minutes, for the Halesworth area it was 59pc and 71pc, and for the Southwold area it was 68pc and 79pc.