Regional ambulances are worst responders

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EAST Midlands Ambulance Service is the worst performing trust in the country, according to new figures – with the bad winter blamed for some of the problems.

Figures released by the NHS Information Centre show that while the performance of many ambulance trusts across England has improved, EMAS recorded the worst figures nationally for response times.

For category A calls, (to life-threatening situations), trusts are expected to respond within eight minutes but EMAS only managed this for 72.4 per cent of calls, compared to the country’s best performing trust, South Central, which achieved 77.5 per cent.

And for category B calls, (serious but not immediately life-threatening), EMAS managed to respond within the required 19 minutes to just 88.3 per cent of calls, compared to the Isle of Wight trust, which achieved 97.8 per cent.

And the figures for EMAS are worse than last year when the trust hit 96.5 per cent for Category A calls and 94.5 per cent for Category B.

Derek Clark MEP for the East Midlands said he had warned in 2006 that merging ambulance authorities into one East Midlands Service would not work: “It was bound to lead to a lack of accountability and poorer performances – the area is just too large for the service to cover satisfactorily.

“It is easy to blame the weather. What is needed is ‘local’ ambulance services for ‘local’ people. East Midlands Ambulance Service was ordered to improve after poor results last year – what now, then?”

But a spokesperson for EMAS said the trust was making good progress after introducing new systems, increasing frontline staff numbers, by working with healthcare colleagues at acute hospitals to improve turn-around times and learning from other ambulance services.

“We are pleased to say that our year-to-date figure stands at 76.18 per cent for category A calls,” he added.

“We are determined to return to our former status of only three years ago when EMAS was one of the country’s top performing trusts.”

Steps to improve performance include:

• Either of their two control room can now pick up calls from anywhere on the patch which means calls are answered faster and the control is more robust in case of major breakdown

• direct admission to stroke and coronary units at acute hospitals in the area

• an additional 30 paramedics this year. Frontline staff increased by 100 last year

• 91 new ambulances introduced last year, over 40 more to come this year

• engagement with local communities on the quality and delivery of the service .

In April, NHS Derbyshire County, which oversees EMAS, announced that it was going to fine EMAS £5 million for not achieving the national response requirements, although the money will be reinvested back into EMAS.

At that time, David Farrelly, Deputy Chief Executive of EMAS said: “We were hitting the target until the severe snow and ice in the last week of November. The prolonged cold spell brought a dramatic increase in patients with breathing problems and flu-like symptoms through December and into January.”

And the weekend’s hot weather saw EMAS hit by high demand again receiving 13 per cent more life -threatening category A calls than on the same day last year, increasing on Sunday, to 23 per cent. due to breathing problems and chest pains. brought about by the sudden high temperatures across the region.