Ambulance times quizzed by health bosses

HEALTH chiefs are today demanding urgent action is taken following concerns about ambulance turnaround times.

SUFFOLK: Health chiefs are today demanding urgent action is taken following concerns about ambulance turnaround times.

At a meeting of NHS Suffolk's internal scrutiny committee, it was revealed that there was a lack of accurate data provided by the East of England Ambulance Service about its response times and that “ambulance turnaround across Suffolk remained an area of concern and was having an adverse impact on the whole urgent care system.”

Due to “long-standing” concerns about this issue, NHS Suffolk has asked the ambulance service for specific details, including times of calls, arrival times at hospitals, reason for the transportation, and the times it took to turnaround the call.

It was stated that this call for data has also come about due to the public concern over journey times to specialist heart centres (Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention centres) outside the county.

Martin Smith, chair of the internal scrutiny committee, said some information had been received by the ambulance service but contained errors. As a result a letter will be sent to NHS Bedfordshire, the lead commissioner for the ambulance service in the region, to ask for the correct data.

Mr Smith said: “We have been concerned about [ambulance] turnaround times compared to other primary care trusts in the East of England.

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“If we could get patient level information from Bedfordshire, we could see whether some patients do not need to be taken to hospital, but other sources of care.”

Speaking at Wednesday's NHS Suffolk Board meeting, Tracy Dowling, director of strategic commissioning, said: “I think it is quite reasonable we ask for that information so we are able to properly scrutinise the service we are getting.”

Performance of turnaround times is affected by issues in hospitals like management of bed capacity and demand.

An East of England Ambulance Service said: “Patients are our number one priority and our staff work hard to co-ordinate efforts with hospitals in order to provide the best care possible and achieve the quickest turnaround times they can within the scope of the facilities provided at each. Our approach is a partnership one and as far as data provision is concerned we will look into this matter with commissioners.”

What has your experience been of ambulance turnaround times? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail