Ambulance figures to be reviewed

A REVIEW of out-of-date systems of measuring ambulance response times is underway today, following campaigning by the East Anglian Ambulance Service (EAAS).

A REVIEW of out-of-date systems of measuring ambulance response times is underway today, following campaigning by the East Anglian Ambulance Service (EAAS).

Department of Health chiefs have agreed to look at ambulance response time targets after the EAAS's chief executive Chris Carney called for them to be brought up to date to reflect modern practices.

At present, Government targets demand that a fully-equipped ambulance arrives at 95pc of 999 calls within 19 minutes – forcing ambulances to dash to cases that may not require their assistance.

But with an increasing number of other options on offer, such as first response paramedics and estate cars which can be used to take non-urgent cases to GP's surgeries or hospitals, Mr Carney believes it is time for an overhaul of this figure.

He said: "We currently have the nonsensical situation where calls which are initially categorised over the phone as life-threatening - but are then assessed by a first-response paramedic as neither life-threatening or serious – still require a full ambulance to arrive at the scene within 19 minutes."

Now the Department of Health (DoH) has agreed to review the target and this week an A&E specialist met with Dr Carney and paramedics in East Anglia to discuss possible changes.

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In a letter Kathryn Stelfox, acting head of ambulance policy at the DoH, said a review group would be looking at how the standards for the existing performance requirements can be updated to reflect current practice.

Dr Carney welcomed the news: "We had a very positive response from the Department, and look forward to receiving their report.

"We hope that the targets can now be modernised to reflect the modernised ambulance service."

Currently, in common with other ambulance services, the EAAS transports many patients – if appropriate - in single-manned paramedic response vehicles, rendering the ambulance-only target redundant.

The ambulance trust only meets the current target by including such response vehicles.

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