East Anglia: Fire union attacks failing response times of ambulance service

East of England Ambulance Service

East of England Ambulance Service - Credit: Archant

FIRE union chiefs have launched a blistering attack on the East of England Ambulance Service, saying failing response times are like a “gaping wound”.

The criticism comes as new figures, published in a report to be discussed at tomorrow’s NHS Suffolk board meeting, show EEAST failed to respond to category ‘red’ patients – those in an immediately life-threatening condition – within both the eight-minute and 19-minute targets.

In November, 68.6 per cent of ‘red’ calls were responded to within eight minutes and 88.9pc within 19 minutes in Suffolk compared to the national target of 75pc and 95pc respectively.

Keith Handscomb, regional representative for the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Something needs to be done but looking for a sticking plaster to treat a gaping wound is not the answer. For those who find themselves in medical emergencies, this is a matter of life or death importance.”

He added: “We applaud the skills and commitment of the professional paramedics and ambulance crews we work alongside but fire crews are telling us something is going seriously wrong with the 999 response of EEAST.

“Fire crews tell us they and casualties are waiting longer and longer for the arrival of paramedics and ambulances. When a paramedic does arrive they are often on their own in a car or on a motorbike and are unable to take seriously injured casualties to hospital. Fire officers tell us of their desperate frustration at being told to wait in line when chasing up emergency requests for the attendance of an ambulance – sometimes they are told the ambulance sent to their emergency has been redirected to another call due to there being no other ambulance available.”

Mr Handscomb said the number of staff across all three emergency services in East Anglia are being cut.

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“A little extra first aid training for police officers and firefighters might sound like a cheap solution to ambulance delays, but when any of us find ourselves in a serious medical emergency, what we really, really need, really, really quickly, are professional paramedics and ambulance crews to treat us and take us to hospital,” he added.

An NHS Suffolk spokesman said the organisation was working with EEAST to ensure response times meet the national benchmark.

“Patients in rural and urban communities who need urgent treatment should be able to access this easily, quickly and consistently,” he added.

“The rural nature of Suffolk can make meeting these targets more difficult than in other parts of the county.”