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Ambulance service cash plea

PUBLISHED: 11:59 30 December 2008 | UPDATED: 12:50 09 March 2010

It is feared that a lack of cash could cost lives

It is feared that a lack of cash could cost lives

GIVE us cash to save more lives.

That is the call today from the financially-stricken East of England Ambulance Trust which is failing to reach dying patients in Suffolk quickly enough.

The Star has kept a close eye on the performance of the amblance service through our Ambulance Watch campaign

GIVE us cash to save more lives.

That is the call today from the financially-stricken East of England Ambulance Trust which is failing to reach dying patients in Suffolk quickly enough.

It comes after a whistleblowing paramedic claimed lives were being put at risk because of the delays.

The ambulance service is supposed to reach 75 per cent of patients with potentially life-threatening injuries within eight minutes, but figures from October show that they managed just 71.86pc in Suffolk, while hitting the target in Bedfordshire and Herefordshire and Essex.

Today a top boss from the ambulance trust said the service was in desperate need of more funding and was awaiting a decision on a bid for cash from its commissioners, NHS Suffolk.

And the paramedic, working on the frontline of the battle to save lives in Suffolk, said he was concerned a lack of investment would have dire consequences.

The man, who did not want to be named, for fear of losing his job, said: “Things are really, really bad.

“Morale is at rock bottom. We were a really good ambulance service but now we worry that someone will die.

“I can't emphasise enough how bad things are at the moment.”

His concerns come just weeks after the death of heart attack victim Alfred Clark who lay dying on Felixstowe's seafront for 29 minutes before an ambulance reached him.

After the tragedy the ambulance service reminded the public that they are only commissioned to reach 75pc of life-threatening calls within eight minutes. But now they are failing to even hit that target.

The service has also failed to achieve another milestone of reaching 95pc of serious but not life-threatening calls within 19 minutes. It only managed 90.25pc in October.

In its most recent board paper the service warned it was facing cuts because of money troubles and it has now been forced to plead with its commissioners, NHS Suffolk, for extra money.

Jon Rapley, the Suffolk representative on the ambulance trust's user group, said: “It comes down to money.

“If they had the money they would put on more vehicles and train more staff.

“But they have to compete for funding with all the other parts of the health service in Suffolk. There is not a bottomless pit.

“I'm not making excuses but they work very hard on trying to meet these targets.”

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said: “Along with every other primary care trust in the east of England, we have given the ambulance service extra funding every month since October.

“The service has worked extremely hard as it strives to meet its response targets and we will fully support them in their work.”

- Are you worried about ambulance response times? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

The view from the East of England Ambulance Trust:-

Judi Ingram, locality chief operating officer at the East of England Ambulance Trust, said: “We are going through the funding round with the commissioners and that is looking positive. We are asking for additional resources and I am confident we will get them. An external report was done to validate the bid.

“We work really hard and we are an excellent ambulance service. Since April there has been more than a three and a half per cent rise on the number of patients we reach within eight minutes.

“We are commissioned to reach 75 per cent of calls as a Trust, which consists of Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.”

She added: “We have got lots more staff - 200 more staff this year - but it takes two years to fully train paramedics. It is not a quick fix.

“We are always looking at ways to improve cost efficiency but this would not touch frontline resources.”

She also added that changes to the way response times were recorded had had an impact on the trust, meaning the clock now starts when the call taker has picked up a 999 call, not once they have established where the caller is and what the problem is, which previously gave them an extra 90 seconds.

However other ambulance trusts around the country were already starting the clock from the moment calls were connected so the change brought the East of England into line with others.

Ambulance Watch:-

FOR more than a decade the Ambulance Watch campaign has been keeping a close watch on the performance of our ambulance service.

The Evening Star is determined to hold the East of England Ambulance Service to account, on behalf of Suffolk patients and also the dedicated paramedics who fight so hard to save people's lives.

The award-winning Ambulance Watch campaign was launched in 1996 after an ambulance took 42 minutes to reach Stutton man Brian Woolnough who laying dying of a heart attack.

The campaign led to an official inquiry into the region's ambulance service after the Star highlighted a series of long delays for patients waiting for urgent treatment.

Then in 2005 more tragedy struck and reinvigorated the Star's campaign for a better service.

David Halley-Frame, 25, waited for an ambulance for nearly half an hour after suffering an asthma attack and collapsing in Ipswich during a night out. Mr Halley-Frame later died in Ipswich Hospital.

Now as the ambulance service continues to see an increase in the number of calls it receives The Evening Star pledges to keep the pressure on to make sure the people of Suffolk get the emergency service they deserve.


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