Ambulance Watch: Calls for service to be ‘open and transparent’

An East Anglian MP has stressed the need for health trusts to be open and transparent about their performance, after the ambulance service said it had been 'wrongly criticised' for missing its own targets.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust has missed its own targets for getting patients to a stroke unit for four consecutive months this year.

In his role as constituency MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Dr Dan Poulter was one of two members of parliament who commented on the new figures, which revealed that fewer than half of stroke sufferers were taken to specialist hospitals within the EEAST's own target time.

However, the ambulance service says it has been 'wrongly criticised' for failing to meet its own ambitious targets.

Today Dr Poulter said: 'If the East of England Ambulance Service is publishing what it considers to be acceptable response times for patients who have had a stroke in getting them to a specialist unit, and if the service is missing its own targets, then it's important that the trust is open, honest and transparent about that. If the trust has set those targets then it has set them for a reason.'

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In his capacity as a health minister, Dr Poulter also added: 'The future of health care is about transparency and making this sort of data available so that we can see how trusts are performing.

'Patients want to know where we have got good quality health care and not so good quality health care, and we need to make sure the NHS can be open and honest about where they need to improve.'

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The ambulance service said it has set its own target of 62pc for the stroke indicator, an increase from the previous trust target of 50pc for the number of patients who reach a specialist stroke unit within an hour.

However, it argues that little can be done regarding the effect of geography on transport times, with sometimes extended journey times to hospital in rural parts, or where local district general hospitals have to be bypassed in preference for specialist centres further away.

A spokesman for the trust said: 'We agree that it is important that performance and such statistics are widely available to the public so they can find out more about their health service and how it is doing. As such, we publish the ambulance clinical quality indicators on our website and are looking at how we can make these even more accessible to the public.

'There are no national or government targets on the percentage of Face Arm Speech Test (FAST) positive stroke patients (assessed face-to-face) potentially eligible for stroke thrombolysis, who arrive at a hyper acute stroke centre within 60 minutes of call. Therefore the trust set its own internal target of 50pc last year.

'This year the trust decided to set a stretch target to improve its performance on this important indicator of 62pc.'

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