Ambulance response times below standard - again

PUBLISHED: 13:19 28 June 2011

Toys banned from ambulances due to health and safety restrictions.

Toys banned from ambulances due to health and safety restrictions.

Archant

AMBULANCE crews covering North Somerset have slipped in their performance in reaching the most urgent calls to fall back below Government targets.

Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) got to 74.3 per cent of the life-threatening category A calls within eight minutes between April 2010 and March 2011, against a target of 75 per cent.

The picture is even worse in the Avon sector, which includes North Somerset, where crews got to emergency calls in just 73.3 per cent of cases within the time.

The new statistics mark disappointment for the service, which had improved its performance from 68.4 per cent two years ago to the targeted 75 per cent last year.

Weston MP John Penrose supported a campaign by widower Shaun Simmons for improved ambulance response times following the death of his wife, Martina, after a two-and-a-half hour wait for help.

This week, Mr Penrose said: “Obviously these figures are disappointing because, thanks to a lot of hard work from everyone involved, we had seen a steady improvement in response times over several years and the service was just meeting the national standard for life-threatening emergencies.

“Poor response times can have tragic consequences, so we can’t be complacent about this small drop in performance.”

The table published by the NHS shows the GWAS as the ninth worst performing of the 12 ambulance trusts in the country.

The service has been hit by the ongoing threat of industrial action by staff following a dispute over a change in working patterns.

UNISON steward and paramedic, Chris Hewett, called the news ‘a real kick in the teeth’ for ambulance staff.

He said: “These figures show how urgent it is to resolve the ongoing industrial unrest and UNISON and GWAS need to work hard to resolve it.”

GWAS chief executive Martin Flaherty is the fourth man to head the service following Martina Simmons’ death in 2008.

He said: “Clearly it is disappointing that we fell just short of the national standard.

“I am confident that GWAS has made further, significant progress towards becoming a consistently first-class healthcare organisation.

“While speed of response to 999 calls is certainly important in immediately life-threatening situations, it is by no means the only requirement.

“The clinical car we provide to our patients is also measured and it is reassuring that we can continue to improve.”

Mr Penrose said he wanted to meet Mr Flaherty ‘as soon as possible’ to find out why the service had suffered the setback.

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