Ambulances delayed in Suffolk towns

AS FEW as 42 per cent of calls to potentially life threatening incidents are being answered within target times in part of Suffolk, the Evening Star can reveal today.

AS FEW as 42 per cent of calls to potentially life threatening incidents are being answered within target times in part of Suffolk, the Evening Star can reveal today.

In May and June in South Suffolk response times fell well below the target of 75 per cent laid down by the Government.

In Needham Market in June, the figures even fell as low as 42 per cent and 50 per cent in central Stowmarket.

The figures are even lower than those of North Norfolk, notorious for its slow road network.

During the last year the East Anglian Ambulance Service has prided its success in reaching the 75 per cent target.

But the 75 per cent is an average for the region and in some areas the percentage figures drop dramatically.

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However in Ipswich 94 per cent of the Category A calls are answered within the eight minute deadline which drags up the average percentage figures.

Trust spokesman Matthew Ware said that figures did go up in July and August and that the amount of calls received for the two areas had to be taken into consideration, as in some areas there were only a small number of calls.

He also added that the Trust was funded to achieve 75 per cent across its entire region – not individual areas.

He said: "We are not funded to achieve 75 per cent by ward or constituency.

"To achieve 75 per cent per ward or constituency an increase in ambulance funding of millions of pounds would be needed.

"We are aware that some more rural areas of East Anglia do have lower response times than certain other areas which is why we are introducing a community paramedic within Newmarket in the next couple of months which will help to push response times up much higher."

By having a community paramedic in the area Mr Ware said they would be able to get to patients quicker and may also be able to prevent ambulances coming out if they are not needed, leaving them free to go on to other jobs.

He added that in August only one emergency response was needed in Needham Market which was reached on time, but in July only 22 per cent of the nine calls were reached within the eight minutes and another four within nine minutes.

August figures for Stowmarket showed 70.3 per cent of 27 calls were reached within the eight minutes and that the average response in both places was ten and a half minutes.

The Department of Health targets state that 75 per cent of Category A calls should be reached within eight minutes and 95 per cent should have an ambulance on scene within 14 to 19 minutes.

East Anglian Ambulance Trust just met this target in May at 95.16 per cent and failed to reach it in June at 94.18 per cent.

In South Suffolk only 82.95 per cent were reached within that time.

Other targets state that 95 per cent of doctors urgent cases should be at their destination within 15 minutes of the time stated by the doctor.

In June the target was missed at 91.02 per cent and in May it was 91.16 per cent.

In 1996 the Evening Star launched its Ambulance Watch campaign following the tragic death of Brian Woolnough who waited in agony for 42 minutes and revealed a number of the Trust's failures to reach patients in Ipswich.

Since then the Trust completed a huge overhaul of the system and saw their response times shoot up.

They were also made a three star trust by the Commission for Health Improvement both this year and last year.

Despite that it appears there are still areas where the service to the public is not quite what it should be.

David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds has now vowed to find out why his constituents are getting the rough end of the stick and is determined to get things changed.

He said: "I will be discussing what we can do to change these pretty ghastly numbers.

"It is not as though Stowmarket and Needham Market are away from large arterial roads in the middle of nowhere.

"There is something not quite right here."

Mr Ruffley said that he had been in contact with Chris Carney, the chief executive of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust who told him that they were looking into placing paramedic cars in the area who could treat at the scene but are unable to transport to hospital when needed.

Mr Ruffley said: "This is not up and running yet and we will have to wait and see if the figures improve if it does get going.

"One always hopes and prays that the ambulance service will get where it is intended to in life threatening situations but you always have it in the back of your mind that they don't.

"It is not the fault of the paramedics, it is about resources, but there is always the risk of a fatality which could have been prevented.

Figures between May 1 2003 and 31 May 2003.

Cat A calls percentage on time number of patients

Central Suffolk 110 69.09 75

Ipswich 167 94.01 156

South Suffolk 102 58.82 59

Suffolk Coastal 146 66.44 97

West Suffolk 146 74.66 109

Figures between June 1 to June 30 2003

Central Suffolk 89 69.66 62

Ipswich 181 90.61 164

South Suffolk 91 58.24 52

Suffolk Coastal 154 64.29 99

West Suffolk 153 73.20 111

Figures for county council divisions in the Bury St Edmunds constituency:

Needham Market 7 42.9 3

Stowmarket Central 10 76.6 7.6

Stowmarket North 6 50 3

Stowmarket South 1 100 1