Ambulance Watch: Paramedics waiting for up to three hours for back-up from their own crews with Norfolk the worst performing county in the east of England
Archant Norfolk Photographic Â© 2009
The region's struggling ambulance service is failing to respond to requests for help from its own frontline paramedics with some staff waiting for three hours for aid.
Crews and patients were left waiting for at least 30 minutes on 6,263 occasions in Norfolk over 12 months - that accounts for 5.25pc of all call-outs the service responded to between November 2011 and November 2012.
And the situation is getting worse with solo responders in rapid response vehicles waiting for transport for their patients for 30 minutes on 685 occasions in November 2012 compared to 20 occasions the year before in the county.
On 24 occasions the county’s paramedics waited for more than three hours.
One solo responder said he found himself waiting too long for back-up in two out of three calls he attended.
“It is embarrassing,” he said. “You find yourself apologising on behalf of the trust when you are thinking it is not your fault. Sometimes it can be a bit intimidating when the patient’s family is there. You express your concerns to the trust, but often it falls on deaf ears.”
The worrying wait that the service’s own medics must endure for help was highlighted by the death of 27-year-old Catherine Barton in Thetford in August 2011.
She died while waiting for almost two hours to be extracted from her smashed Ford Ka, with the first paramedic on scene stating that she was expecting back-up to arrive.
And the figures put into doubt the trust’s tactic of employing solo responders in rapid response vehicles who help to drive down response times but then have to wait on scene with their patients for an ambulance to arrive so they can be taken to hospital.
Denise Burke from the Act on Ambulances campaign said: “I’m not at all surprised by these figures.
“It all comes down to the fact that we don’t have enough ambulances out there.
“It is quite obvious that just putting in some additional Rapid Response Vehicles is not the answer.
“What is needed is a double-crewed ambulance.”
She added: “I could understand it if they didn’t know what they were coming out to but that is not the case.
“It is not as though a paramedic turns up not having some idea of the complexity of the case.”
In Suffolk crews waited for more than 30 minutes for help on 2,928 occasions over the 12 months and the rise mirrored that of Norfolk, with nine incidents recorded in November 2011 and 256 in November 2012.
In Cambridgeshire crews were left waiting for more than 30 minutes on 2,499 occasions, equating to around 2.5pc of all call-outs.
A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) said: “We acknowledge that back-up delays have been an issue and are addressing this by making 15 extra ambulances available, recruiting 200 more staff and placing resources where they are needed most so that patients can receive the right care when they need it most.”