Ambulance response time targets missed as increased demand hits service
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Fresh fears are today raised over our region's ambulance service after figures show response time targets in the area continue to be missed.
As demand rises rapidly, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust is also grappling with the departure of hundreds of frontline staff, the EDP can exclusively reveal.
Critics are also concerned about plans to send student paramedic crews to the most serious cases, as new chief executive Robert Morton bids to turn around performance to satisfy commissioners. But the trust said response times in Norfolk are improving this year.
Former health minister Norman Lamb said he feared the trust is under 'huge pressure' to hit national targets.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, whose constituents are particularly affected by poor response times, said he was 'very concerned' about the trust's performance.
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It comes as we reveal the number of 999 calls received by the trust between the financial years of 2012-15 has grown by nearly 4pc. In that time, response times to the most serious calls (Red 1) have worsened, although so far this financial year the trust as a whole is hitting its target.
However, locally the trust hit its Red 1 target in four of this region's eight local areas in November (the most recent available figures), but response times in south Norfolk and north Norfolk remain consistently way off target.
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The trust's overall performance in Red 2 (calls to emergencies such as strokes) has deteriorated rapidly in the last three years.
In our region the trust failed to hit the Red 2 target in any of eight local areas in November 2015, and response times across Norfolk were worse than in November 2014.
Last November, Luton was the only area within the six counties covered by the trust which hit its Red 2 target.
But the trust insists there has been a 4pc improvement within emergency response times in Norfolk during April and November 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
A trust spokesman said in that period crews reached more than 3,300 emergency calls in eight minutes – ambulance response performance is measured by a target to get to the scene of an emergency within eight minutes of the call being made, for 75pc of calls.
Matt Broad, locality director for Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire, said: 'Figures about the time taken to reach people have to be taken in a much wider context – an eight minute and one second response is counted as a fail, but hasn't begun to account for the level of care given once we've reached that patient and the outcome for that person.'
• LATE FINISHES REMAIN A WORRY
Not enough is being done to prevent frontline staff's late finishes.
That's the message from Unison and MP Norman Lamb, as union research suggests the issue is the main reason frontline staff leave their jobs.
Unison's Fraer Stevenson said: 'We have seen frontline crew working 18-hour shifts, which is completely unacceptable and we have the evidence to show staff are regularly working well beyond their planned shift length.
'Providing emergency responses for 12 hours is physically and emotionally very demanding.
'It is right that at the end of their 12-hour shift staff can go home to rest.'
The trust began a pilot in May to gradually reduce late finishes, but Ms Stevenson there had been no reduction, adding data provided by the trust showed late finishes are still a significant issue.
Mr Lamb said: 'I'm not happy the trust is doing enough to tackle this issue.
'I'm not convinced the trust appears to be that committed to getting the problem sorted out.
'Paramedics must have a manageable working day.'
A spokesman for the trust said: 'The impact late finishes is having on staff and how we address the issue remains an absolute priority. Ambulance services nationally face similar problems and everyone acknowledges that there's no one solution or 'magic bullet' which will solve the problem.
'It's about striking the balance between staff welfare and wellbeing, and maintaining our response to those patients who need us urgently.
'Measures we have taken include the late finishes trial, surveying staff for their views, a workshop with staff-side colleagues.'