East Lancashire ambulances missing serious response target by 50 per cent (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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East Lancashire ambulances missing serious response target by 50 per cent
10:10am Thursday 2nd January 2014 in News
AMBULANCES called out on the most serious emergencies are missing their response target in more than half the wards in East Lancashire.
MP Graham Jones said ‘simply not enough resources’ were being given to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) leaving it struggling to cope.
He said the situation had got so bad, sometimes police were taking people to A&E rather than wait for an blue light ambulance or paramedic service.
NWAS aims to respond to three-quarters of the most serious and immediately life-threatening calls within eight minutes.
But data obtained by the Lancashire Telegraph through Freedom of Information laws showed 45 out of 84 ward areas missed the target between April and September this year.
In several wards the ‘Red 1’ target was missed in more than half the incidents, including Craven and Earby, where politicians have previously highlighted the problem.
In five Ribble Valley and Pendle wards the target was missed on every occasion, although there were only a small number of calls. These were Langho, Mellor, Gisburn and Rimmington, Higham and Pendleside and Vivary Bridge.
Red 1 calls cover cardiac arrest patients who are not breathing and do not have a pulse, plus other severe conditions where treatment is needed extremely quickly.
NWAS is only contracted to deliver the 75 per cent standard across the whole region, so is able to balance the longer response times in rural areas with the quick response times in urban areas such as Blackburn, Burnley, or Manchester.
Hyndburn and Haslingden MP Mr Jones said: “The trust is struggling for two main reasons.
“Firstly, Royal Blackburn Hospital has the busiest A&E in the north west and one of the busiest in the UK, and secondly, the cuts that were being placed on the North West Ambulance Service meant they could not provide the level of service they have provided previously.
“There is also a growing number of people calling 999 rather than their GP, or making their own way to A&E.”
He said the police had told him: “In some cases it was more efficient for police to take people to A&E rather than wait for a blue light ambulance or paramedic service.
“They were concerned police were having to take people to A&E, and I raised his concerns with the North West Ambulance Service.
“Quite simply, they cannot cope. I know that they are doing the best they can.
“Lancashire is a lot different to urban areas, and it’s one of the problems they face in hitting targets in areas like this, but they do not have the resources.
“It’s not as if they don’t care or they are not racing to a call, but there simply is not enough resources.”
Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “The patients of East Lancashire have a right to expect to be treated in exactly the same way no matter what their geographical location. I would like to see financial penalties imposed in the areas where there is poor performance.
“Missing one target is one is one target too many, especially where it involves emergency or urgent care.”
Ambulance services across the country have been training residents in rural areas to become community first responders (CFRs) and Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said an ongoing recruitment drive would be crucial to improving performance in East Lancashire.
CFRs are volunteers who often live in rural areas and can give crucial emergency care before paramedics arrive, such as using a defibrillator to revive a cardiac arrest patient.
Mr Stephenson, who has praised the hardwork of paramedics and recently went on a ride along with a crew, said: “I’ve been in discussions with the ambulance service about poor response times and I’m keen to do anything I can to improve this.
“With the best will in the world they’re not going to be able to get to a rural farm as quickly as somewhere in a city, although Vivary Bridge in Colne is an urban area which does give some cause for concern. We know we need to work together to recruit more volunteers to be community first responders.”
Steve Rice, branch secretary for the GMB union at NWAS, said: “It is crucial to try and meet this target, especially for cardiac arrest patients, because they reckon it should be as quick as four minutes ideally.
“The way the service is commissioned has always been a bug bear, because you could just concentrate on Liverpool and Manchester and probably still hit the target, but that wouldn’t be right and we don’t do that because people in Lancashire and Cumbria would suffer.”
NWAS said achieving the response times in rural areas ‘can be challenging due to the nature of the landscape’, but said it still ‘strives for equity’ across the counties.
It said ambulances and rapid response vehicles were based at dedicated stations across East Lancashire, so it does not currently use strategic road-side waiting points.
The stations are in Accrington, Altham, Barnoldswick, Blackburn, Burnley, Clitheroe, Darwen, Nelson, Rossendale and Stacksteads.
Overall in East Lancashire the eight minute target was met in 71 per cent of cases.
In Blackburn with Darwen the performance was 84 per cent, with Whitehall and East Rural the only wards where the target was missed.
An NWAS spokesman added: “There will always be variation across the region depending on weather, time of day, activity levels, distance between vehicle and the incident etc.
“Achieving the required response times in rural areas can be challenging not least because of the nature of the landscape. This is something that we are continually working to improve.
“When we consider resources to improve response times, we obtain data from our capacity manager who maps travel times, geography, historical activity, station locations, existing resources as well as known developments (building of new houses in various areas etc).”
A spokesman for Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group [CCG], the lead commissioner for NWAS, said: “We are currently working with NWAS on developing a data pack for each of the CCGs who we commission the ambulance service on behalf of.
“The data pack will help explain the reasons for the variations in performance by individual CCGs.
“In the areas where performance is low and are affected by these factors, additional resources are not the answer as this would not be the best use of scarce NHS resources.
“However, NWAS have developed a wide range of community first responder schemes which supplements the services provided by NWAS.”
To find out more about becoming a volunteer see: http://www.nwas-responders.info/
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