Ambulance Watch: 999 service hit by funding withdrawal over missed targets

East of England Ambulance Service Trust.

East of England Ambulance Service Trust. - Credit: Archant 2013

The region's under-pressure ambulance service has been dealt a blow after having funding withheld for failing to meet response time targets.

The East of England Ambulance Service will be penalised 2% of its contract with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) after falling short of national standards, and will not be paid in full until it meets them.

The measure will only cost the ambulance service if it fails to deliver by the end of the year – though it is unclear what the figure could be.

The withdrawal comes after a report last year found the ambulance service failed to meet its target of reaching 95% of Category A patients – those in life-threatening situations – within 19 minutes, and a clinical capacity review found the service was performing poorly in many areas.

It was ordered to take urgent action to raise performance following an inspection by the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.

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The 2% withdrawal is a sanction written into the national NHS contract, but a spokesman for EEAST said Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG was the only body so far to have withheld funding from the service in the region.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG said: 'The national NHS contract has a financial consequence for ambulance trusts who fail to meet the agreed national standards for response times across an entire year.

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'This equates to 2% of the contract value and unfortunately the East of England Ambulance Service Trust has fallen short of these standards and this consequence must be applied.

'NHS Commissioners are working closely with ambulance trust executives to ensure that the issues that are causing the deterioration in response times are addressed and, where necessary, reinvest these resources to improve care.'

Wendy Tankard, chief contracts officer for Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk CCGs and lead commissioner for the East of England Ambulance Service said: 'The Commissioning Consortium and EEAST are working together to address the issues of underperformance by the ambulance trust. The national NHS contract has a financial consequence for ambulance trusts and other NHS providers who do not meet national performance standards. These consequences are used to ensure patients receive the right care and achieve the best possible outcome. Commissioners support the ambulance trust in reaching these standards and only as a last resort are financial consequences applied.'

'The Commissioning Consortium will continue to work with and monitor EEAST to address areas of underperformance and ensure those improvements are made throughout what is a challenging and transformational programme for the ambulance trust.'

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