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Ambulance response times below target


Nearly half of England’s ambulance trusts are failing to meet national targets on responding to life-threatening emergencies, according to a recent report.

The NHS Information Centre report says that five out of the 12 NHS ambulance trusts failed to meet the target of reaching 75 per cent of the most serious incidents within eight minutes in 2008-09.

The report also shows that only a third met targets to arrive at the scene of 95 per cent of serious, but not immediately life-threatening, incidents within 19 minutes.

Of the 7.48 million emergency and urgent calls received by ambulance control rooms in 2008-09, 6.15 million calls resulted in an emergency response arriving at the incident, up by 4.4 per cent compared with a year earlier.

Figures show that in 74.3 per cent of cases ambulance services reached life threatening, or category A, incidents within eight minutes.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: ‘More calls were received than last year, emergency response vehicles attended more incidents than last year, and ambulance crews took more emergency and urgent patients to hospital than in any other year in the past decade.’

Although the figures show that some trusts are not meeting targets, Heather Strawbridge, chair of the Ambulance Service Network, said that England’s ambulance trusts had made ‘huge improvements’ in the past year.


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Readers' comments (6)

  • What happens if meeting the target is the wrong thing to do?

    In fact, what happens if, in designing services to meet the target, there are unexpected consequences that put people's lives in danger?

    Isn't it time to stop this madness?

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  • I do not believe in arbitrary targets, but there does need to be clear standards & expectations, particularly in life-threatening situations. While out riding with my friend in a rural area, she fell off her horse & broke her back. It took the air ambulance 30 minutes to get to us even though it was based only 2 miles from our location. I have since discovered that the response times to our incident have been 'manipulated' to try & meet these targets.

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  • Jon Harvey

    Targets are dangerous - especially ones that are created top down. See my article - which I wrote several years ago - about the follow of targets:

    I would be more interested to know the patterns of response - when are they best - and what causes the variation? How much to other agencies affect the speed of response within the 'golden hour' - what more can be done to ensure the police / highways agency traffic officers / local authorities etc all play their part? Have the ambulance trusts got the 'whole system in the room' to sort these mattes out?

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  • The target system in use for the ambulance service is dangerous, immoral and completely discriminatory. It has led to the extremely low morale of thousands of ambulance staff, who are being used by their managers to achieve foundation status(or trying to).
    It has led to a discriminatory system of emergency health care, where the rural areas are not really considered, as they don't generate enough calls to keep an ambulance in the vicinity. the bulk of resources go to bigger towns and cities. this is because it is far easier to hit the magical 75%. Therefore if they only hav eto reach 75% in 8 minutes what happens to the MI or RTC patient with tension pneumothorax in a rural area. Don't thos epeople pay taxes as well?

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  • 12 ambulance trusts? hmm.

    15 years ago i was one of a crew in east anglia ambulance service nhs trust, which formed from the merger of cambridgeshire, norfolk and suffolk services. in the name of efficiency, the three services' control centres had been merged to one control in norwich.

    we were on the a14 near brampton, on our return from an inter-hospital transfer from peterborough to huntingdon, when we were mobilised to an emergency in swaffham. we gave our location, and pointed out to the controller that this was a long journey, but were informed that we were the nearest available crew. despite there being several ambulance stations nearer, we thought resources must be seriously stretched, perhaps by some major incident.

    after forty minutes of "making progress" in blue light parlance, ie, driving to almost the limit of vehicle capability, road conditions and driver training/level of fatigue, control asked why we hadn't booked in as being in attendance at the scene.

    we gave our location, and an estimate of when we might arrive, and again asked if a nearer crew had become available. the controller then said, in a surprised tone, that she thought we were the nearest crew, because the emergency was at a peterborough post code. we then pointed out to the control officer, with as deferential a tone as we subordinate, non-officer paramedics could muster, that there were still two ambulance stations between our current location and swaffham.

    our base station, peterborough was at pe1, we were at pe28 when mobilised, the emergency was at pe37. google maps says the journey is 50.7 miles, and should take 1 hour 26 minutes with traffic.

    adimttedly, i've got more technology on my 'phone than was available to control centres back then. but a little local knowledge is still worth more teraflops of technology than is available today.

    i note that the east anglia service is now subsumed under east of england ambulance service, which includes bedfordshire, cambridgeshire, essex, hertfordshire, norfolk and suffolk. i've just checked their website, there are currently three control centres; bedford, chelmsford, norwich.

    what price efficiency?

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  • These statistics give the ideal opportunity to dissect the reasons why these 'targets' have not been met and I'll bet its got very little to do with the staff in the ambulance!

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