Ambulance service fails to meet Government response times for seriously ill Suffolk patients

An East of England ambulance. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

An East of England ambulance. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

One third of seriously ill patients in Ipswich and east Suffolk are waiting too long to receive an ambulance, latest figures show.

A boss at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) has said more people are phoning 999 because they can not get an appointment with the GP.

Karl Edwards, deputy director of service delivery at EEAST, said: “We do recognise nationally that there is a challenge around primary care.

“That is effectively a planned care service. If they are not able to access a planned care service they default to accessing an unplanned care service, which is 999.

“So often we are responding to patients who may not have been able to get access to primary care services and that defaults to us.”

Red 1 calls – for patients in potentially life-threatening conditions – require an ambulance to arrive within eight minutes, with the Government saying this should be met for 75% of all incidents.

In March, EEAST reached 66% of critically ill people in the Ipswich and east Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area on time, a fall from 71% in February.

Most Read

In the latest CCG board papers, this is coded as a “considerate deterioration - major concerns/risks”.

However, this is a marked improvement from the same time last year when the ambulance service was only getting to around half of the highest priority jobs within eight minutes.

Furthermore, a spokesman for EEAST said it had seen a 36% rise in Red 1 call outs in Ipswich and east Suffolk compared to March 2016.

Mr Edwards said the trust was getting an increased number of referrals from the 111 NHS non-emergency line, while paramedics were dealing with more older patients with “complex health needs”.

During the year ending March 2017, EEAST made it to 68.65% of all Red 1 calls across the region within eight minutes.

A spokesman for Ipswich and east Suffolk CCG, which commissions services from the EEAST, said: “Response times have improved over the last year.

“It is pleasing to see this positive improvement, following additional investment by the consortium. The CCGs recognise the hard work of the ambulance staff and will continue to work closely with the service to address any areas of concern.”