Call for ambulance changes

AMBULANCE bosses have called on the Government to change out of date response time targets.Dr Chris Carney, chief executive of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust, claims the 30-year-old target which requires a fully equipped ambulance to arrive at more than 95 per cent of 999 calls within 19 minutes is no longer appropriate or best for all patients.

AMBULANCE bosses have called on the Government to change out of date response time targets.

Dr Chris Carney, chief executive of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust, claims the 30-year-old target which requires a fully equipped ambulance to arrive at more than 95 per cent of 999 calls within 19 minutes is no longer appropriate or best for all patients.

Last week, the Government announced that some of the most minor 999 calls (Category C) would no longer require an ambulance response and may be offered alternatives such as nurse advice or a non emergency ambulance response.

But, as revealed on the Evening Star website yesterday, Dr Carney said the changes do not go far enough.

He said: "The ambulance service has changed almost beyond recognition in the past few years, but unfortunately the targets do not reflect that.

"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 - who has arrived within minutes - as neither life-threatening or serious, still require a full ambulance to arrive at the scene within 19 minutes.

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"The target encourages us to continue with the ambulance response at full speed - which is a threat to the public and our crew when we already know speed of response is not required."

The trust now has a variety of ways in which patients can be reached quickly such as first response paramedics and also estate cars which can be used to transport non-urgent cases to GP surgeries or hospitals. Patients can also be treated in their homes.

Like other ambulance services the EAAT has included the use of this kind of emergency responding in its performance data enabling them to meet the 19 minute target which helped them exceed the 95 pc target.

Dr Carney said: "We have written to the Department three times in recent years explaining that this is what we have done and why, and we hope that this archaic reporting system will now change to reflect the reality of what is happening out in the field.

"There is now a greater emphasis on paramedics and Emergency Care Practitioners resolving problems locally wherever possible, without the need for the patient to travel to hospital.

"The modern ambulance service can only be accurately measured against modern targets. When these targets were framed in 1974, there was no such thing as a paramedic response vehicle."

n. Do you think Dr Carney is right? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk.