North Norfolk ambulance times 'still far too long'

East of England ambulances in a row

North Norfolk still suffering from poor ambulance times - Credit: EEAST

A council will call for rapid response vehicles (RRVs) to stay in north Norfolk, as the area continues to suffer from slow ambulance times.

After a 2019 report revealed waiting times of over 20 minutes for ambulance responses, former GP and North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) member Dr Victoria Holliday set up a group to tackle the issue.

Speaking to members of the NNDC overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday, Dr Holliday said it was a "complex issue".

"Covid has impacted greatly on this. Any progress we might have made has been derailed by the need for urgent ambulances going up hugely.

She added: "The times are still far too long."

North Norfolk District Council is doing an IT upgrade, meaning its local search departmet is closed

North Norfolk District Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee will call for rapid response vehicles to stay - Credit: Archant

The North Norfolk Coastal Ambulance Response Times Working Party has worked with the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) on improving the district's response times, which have been among the slowest in the country.

Measures EEAST has taken include: mental health practitioners in ambulance control rooms; a stroke ambulance for bedside scanning and thrombolysis; working with parish councils to distribute 111 First campaign materials to ease the pressure on ambulances over summer. 

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Dr Holliday said they could help EEAST by supporting the recruitment of community first responders, while the stroke pilot vehicles were expensive and may need to be supported like an air ambulance charity.

A big concern for Dr Holliday was the cuts to RRV - paramedics who can offer life-saving care but not transport patients - which she said would be cut in autumn, despite being "vital".

Councillors agreed to write to the trust calling for the retention of RRVs and to check in on the progress of ambulance times in six months.

What are the waiting times like?

In April/May 2019 Wells-next-the-Sea was reported to have the overall slowest response times in the UK.

Wells had an average response time of 18.34 minutes for 'category one' emergencies such as cardiac arrest and traumatic injuries (the target is seven minutes) and a 35.57 minute average for 'category two' emergencies such as acute breathing problems and strokes (the target is 18 minutes).  

For April/May 2021 the category one response time for Wells was 21.05 minutes, and for category two it was 28.49 minutes.

In the same months, Cromer and surrounding villages the figure was 7.35 minutes for category one and 19.49 minutes for category two.