...as crews struggle to reach priority calls within target times

PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 January 2011




AMBULANCE crews in North Somerset are failing to meet a target number of life-threatening situations within the required eight minutes, new figures show.

Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) attended 6,208 category A call-outs in the district between April 2010 and November 2010, but only reached 72 per cent within eight minutes. The target is 75 per cent.

Elsewhere, across the service area crews got to 76 per cent of calls in eight minutes. The best-performing area, Cheltenham, saw 93.7 per cent of calls answered in the target time.

But GWAS responded this week, saying it was unfair to make a direct comparison with other areas it covers.

A spokesman said North Somerset covers 150sq miles and had a total of 6,208 category A 999 calls, while Bristol was 100sq miles and 14,320 category A calls were made. This equated to Bristol having more than two times as many incidents in an area two thirds the size of North Somerset.

He said: “What our chief executive David Whiting has explained very clearly in the past is that, while it is very difficult to reach 75 per cent in all areas of our region, we are committed to providing equitable levels of service in broadly similar areas.

“We need to ensure that North Somerset has broadly the same level of service as other similar areas like South Gloucestershire and Stroud District.”

Criticism of GWAS over ambulance response times was sparked in 2008 when nurse Martina Simmons died of a brain haemorrhage after a two-and-a-half hour wait for an ambulance.

Her husband launched a campaign for a better ambulance service which led to the recruitment of trouble-shooter Anthony Marsh and the installation of a new chief executive.

Last year the Mercury reported on how GWAS had turned its results around and was meeting ambulance response time targets as a whole.

The spokesman said further improvements were still being made to focus on getting speedier help to people in rural areas such as North Somerset.

This included proposals for more community first responders and making defibrillators more readily available.

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