Ambulance Watch: 999 trust still not hitting targets a year after launch of campaign

East of England Ambulance Trust ambulance in Norwich.

East of England Ambulance Trust ambulance in Norwich. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Key response times at the region's under-fire ambulance service have failed to improve in the 12 months since the EDP's Ambulance Watch campaign was launched, according to new figures.

Campaigners last night spoke of their disappointment after it emerged that the East of England Ambulance Service was still not hitting its key targets, despite pledges from bosses to improve performance.

Today marks the first anniversary of Ambulance Watch, which has been campaigning for the NHS trust to speed up response times and backup delays to patients in rural Norfolk and Suffolk.

New figures show that the organisation has made a slight improvement locally on its target to respond to 75pc of the most urgent cases in eight minutes. However, its performance in getting a transportable resource to 95pc of patients within 19 minutes worsened.

Officials at the ambulance service admitted they still needed to do work to improve response times in rural areas. However, they argued performance was better than a year ago and the number of complaints, serious incidents and staff sickness levels were down.


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In August 2013, the service attended to 74.52pc of the most urgent 999 calls within eight minutes (A8) and got a transportable resource to 93.65pc of those patients within 19 minutes (A19) across the six counties it serves. In August 2012, the trust's A8 performance was 75.69pc and its A19 performance was 94.71pc.

Across Norfolk and Waveney, the trust's performance against the A8 target was 71.41pc in August, compared with 71.02pc in August 2012. 88.83pc of patients in Norfolk and Waveney received a response in 19 minutes in August, compared with 91.1pc in the same period last year.

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Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said he hoped that response times would start improving soon. However, there were some big challenges ahead.

'Last year the trust did not recognise the extent of the challenges that it had, but there is now full recognition of the challenges they face and have put in place the building blocks to address that challenge. It is a big challenge and will not be sorted over night. If you look at the resources, they recognise the need for more ambulances and they recognise the need for more paramedics and that is a challenge because you can not whistle and they will come.

'The ambulance service is interconnected with other parts of the NHS with primary care and doctors surgeries and Accident and Emergency and with winter demands, it could put pressure on the whole system,' he said.

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the ambulance trust responded to 69.23pc of the area's A8 calls in eight minutes in August, compared with 77.7pc in August 2012. The trust responded to 94.24pc in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough of A19 calls in 19 minutes in August, compared with 95.84pc during the same month last year.

Andrew Morgan, interim chief executive, has pledged to recruit an extra 350 front-line staff across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, which the trust aims to hire by March next year and place an extra 31 double staffed ambulances (DSA) on the roads.

Denise Burke, from the Act on Ambulances campaign and prospective parliamentary candidate for North Norfolk, said: 'We have had a lot of promises and lots of false starts and as the figures are showing we have not had an improvement on response times, which is very worrying. I would like to think with the new action plan that has been recently produced that we will now start to see some improvement. In the past it has been quite difficult to hold them accountable and now that we have got that new report that has the actions and timelines attached to it, we have far more transparency and we will have to see if the promises come to fruition.

'We did not want Ambulance Watch to get to its first birthday and let's hope we are not having the same discussion next year. It is bad enough to have one candle on the birthday cake - we do not want two.'

All of the East of England Ambulance Service's non-executive directors resigned earlier this year following the publication of a critical report into the leadership of the trust and several of the executive positions are filled by interims.

Geoff Harris, interim chairman, announced last month that Mr Morgan would continue to act as interim chief executive after the five candidates for the post were unsuccessful. Mr Morgan has been in the post since December following the retirement of Hayden Newton.

A spokesman for the trust said: 'Our Red 1 performance is better than 2012/13 and we are hitting our green targets on a weekly basis. Our sickness levels are going down trustwide, complaints are on the decrease, serious incidents are down. Recruitment of paramedics is going very well.'

'We are working to put back £20m into front-line services for DSAs and trying to improve response times in rural areas. We are focussing on better engagement with staff and staff empowerment and the stability of the leadership team including the trust board.'

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