Crash man praises ambulance service

A CRASH victim who waited 42 minutes for an ambulance today praised the paramedics who helped him.The StaffBank employee suffered back and leg injuries when the mini-bus he was driving in Landseer Road was in collision with a van during morning rush hour traffic.

A CRASH victim who waited 42 minutes for an ambulance today praised the paramedics who helped him.

The StaffBank employee suffered back and leg injuries when the mini-bus he was driving in Landseer Road was in collision with a van during morning rush hour traffic.

For nearly three-quarters of an hour the driver, who has not been named, his passenger, a temp worker for the Buttermarket-based company, and the driver of the van waited for ambulance staff to arrive at the crash scene.

But the unusually long wait did not prevent the StaffBank driver from praising ambulance officers for his treatment.

StaffBank's contracts manager Ian Fisher said: "He has asked me to pass on his thanks to everybody concerned.

"The police officers gave them some initial first aid.

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"He said when the ambulance service turned up they were absolutely excellent."

The collision happened at 8.30am yesterday when all 13 ambulance crews and six rapid response teams were answering calls.

As the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust worked to find an available crew fire officers and police performed first aid.

The closest available ambulance was dispatched from Diss but the ambulance service attempted to deploy one of its operational managers, who are also trained paramedics, who were on duty and not already answering calls to attend.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said all those managers were either already answering calls or simply not on duty, leading to the 42-minute wait.

"Forty two minutes is pretty rare anyway but it's particularly rare in an urban situation," he said.

"The contingencies that are in place are obviously to use the resources you've got first, then you page all ambulance officers.

"You would obviously send the nearest vehicles whatever you do (but) at the same time you send out a pager to all available ambulance officers.

"We've got quite a large number of our operational managers who will make themselves available to respond when they're off duty."

He added: "Even with the contingencies we couldn't get to this call within 42 minutes."

The driver of the StaffBank mini-bus was treated for whiplash and bruising to his legs at Ipswich Hospital after an ambulance arrived at 9.12am.

He was released from hospital yesterday and the temp worker escaped without serious injury.

Mr Fisher said: "From my point of view 42 minutes was quite a long period of time but I know there are always a lot of reasons.

"Not once did my driver or my temp worker complain about the time.

"If an ambulance can travel from Diss to the other side of Ipswich in 42 minutes it's not too bad a result."

Yesterday's incident had led MPs to express their concern over the pressures on the region's ambulance service.

Richard Spring, the West Suffolk MP, called for an immediate investigation to be launched into the circumstances of the delay, warning "life could have been lost".

Chris Mole, the Ipswich MP, added questions needed to be raised over whether Government targets for the ambulance trust were resulting in unnecessary attendances.

Mr Spring said: "If something like this can happen, they have to investigate what sort of back-up they have.

"For example, if there are two major accidents in different parts of the county and all the ambulances were busy, there has to be an emergency back-up procedure.

"It should not have to come from Norfolk. Norfolk is much further from Ipswich than Colchester. We need further reassurance of a cross-county emergency support service.

"Yes, of course there is a finite number of ambulances and to their credit they have improved response times, but we cannot have a situation like this. There has to be an urgent investigation into this.

"Life could have been lost."

Mr Mole added: "I am generally supportive of the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust. They have improved enormously against their attendance targets over the last few years, but recently questions have been raised whether some Department of Health targets are leading to unnecessary attendances.

"These may lead to ambulances being on a call of lower priority and I intend to raise this with ministers in the coming months."

Weblink: www.eastanglianambulance.com

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EMERGENCY calls to the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust have rocketed by 60 per cent in Suffolk in the last five years.

Ambulance resources are often stretched but the ambulance service says it is managing to keep response times ahead of government targets.

In 2000 the East Anglian Ambulance Service received 29,000 999 calls, far fewer than the more than 46,000 which are predicted for the whole of 2004.

"There are currently more ambulances, more paramedics, more rapid response vehicles on the streets of Suffolk than ever before," a spokesman for the service said.

"The funding increases in the last four or five years have been significant. We're now funded more than double what we were getting five years ago.

"The people of Suffolk are now better served by the ambulance service than ever in history."

The 42-minute wait for an ambulance to arrive to a crash scene in Landseer Road, Ipswich, yesterday is an example of the difficulties faced by the ambulance service.

It says regardless of the resources available, if a situation similar to yesterday presents itself, when there were more calls than units available, longer than usual waits could result.

"If you've got 10 ambulances and 11 999 calls come in what do you do?," the spokesman said.

"There's only X amount of people in the ambulance service and if you've got Y number of calls which are greater than X number of people you're in trouble.

"It's the same in every ambulance service in the world."

In 1996 The Evening Star launched its Ambulance Watch campaign after the death of Brian Woolnough.

Mr Woolnough died in Ipswich Hospital after waiting 40 minutes for an ambulance crew to reach his home.

The Star's three-year campaign resulted in a public inquiry into the Ambulance Service's failings, after which the chief executive Tony Blaber resigned.

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