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Ambulance crews struggling to meet times

PUBLISHED: 14:45 12 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 March 2010

AMBULANCE crews in East Anglia are still struggling to meet tough new response time targets in the face of an alarming rise in the number of 999 calls.

AMBULANCE crews in East Anglia are still struggling to meet tough new response time targets in the face of an alarming rise in the number of 999 calls.

In October calls reached an unprecedented 11,123, the first time they have topped 11,000 - and a huge 13 per cent more than the same month last year.

The deluge also represents a staggering 86pc rise on the average monthly number of 999 calls six years ago – just 5,971 – when the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust was formed.

Despite this, crews reached 63.9pc of patients suffering from a life-threatening condition within eight minutes, compared with 53pc the previous October and 59.2 in September 2001.

The services still the government's new target of arriving at 75pc of Category A (life-threatening) emergency calls within eight minutes by April.

But its progress is being hampered by the surge in calls - which is much greater than the national average of about 5pc.

Director of operations Paul Sutton said there may be a number of reasons for the increase, such as an ageing and increasing population, the treatment of more patients in the community, greater awareness of the ambulance service generally, and pressure son primary care out of hours.

"We're doing everything we can to put extra ambulance resources and technology in place to enable crews to achieve these new clinically driven targets," he said.

"We keep making progress but every time we do the carrot appears to be dangled a little further away from us.

"Staff in the control room and on the road deserve tremendous credit for recording these figures for October at a time when they are working harder than ever."

As well as the emergency work, frontline crews and Patient Transport Services crews answer GP Urgent calls, where a patient who has been assessed by a GP needs to be taken to hospital within a timescale specified by the doctor.

Last month, 83.27pc of these patients arrived in hospital within their allotted time – far and away the best percentage achieved by the Trust in recent years and compared with 72.67pc last October.

"Although we must focus on the eight minute life-threatening target, we can't take our eye off the wider picture and the GP Urgent patients are often in real need of specialist medical care," added Mr Sutton.

"We have introduced four vehicles specifically to deal with these patients, which should help us to maintain these high standards."

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