Suffolk: Ambulance service in county is ‘not good enough’ - MP calls for public inquiry

SUFFOLK: Patients in Suffolk are getting a “very poor deal” from the ambulance service as new figures show a clear disparity between response times in rural and urban areas, The Evening Star can today reveal.

The new figures have prompted Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter to call for a public inquiry into the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST).

Dr Poulter is set to meet EEAST bosses tomorrow, to outline his concerns and call for a “dramatic overhaul” in the trust.

He claims more needs to be invested in frontline services to boost response times, particularly in rural areas, after new figures show a disparity between response times across the region served by EEAST.

But an EEAST spokeswoman said since it was formed in 2006 to cover Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, response times have been improving.

Despite achieving the target to reach 75per cent of category A calls, the most serious, within eight minutes (A8) for last year as a whole, the breakdown of figures by primary care trust area, obtained by the Star, reveal a “worrying picture”, said Dr Poulter.

In rural parts, including Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire patients are forced to wait longer than in more urban areas, including south Essex and Peterborough.

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In Suffolk last year the service fell short of the 75pc A8 standard by 7pc, reaching only 68pc of patients within eight minutes.

In Norfolk the trust fared even worse, reaching 67pc of patients within the target time, while in Cambridgeshire the figure is 65pc – the lowest across the region. That is compared with 85pc in south east Essex, 82pc in south west Essex and 85pc in Peterborough.

Meanwhile the figures for the A19 target, to get transport to 95pc of category A calls within 19 minutes of the request being made, mirror the A8 pattern.

While achieving the target across the region, in Suffolk the trust fell short of the A19 target by 5pc, getting transport to just 90pc of patients within 19 minutes.

Dr Poulter, who is meeting EEAST chief executive Hayden Newton, with North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, said he is calling for the service to provide even more detailed breakdowns, by district councils in Suffolk to get a clearer picture of the service to his constituents.

“Rural areas get a very raw deal,” he said. “In Suffolk the A8 figure is seven pc lower than the target, that is a significant difference which cannot just be explained away.

“So far we have been looking at the regional figures but these new figures for last year show when you drill it down Suffolk is getting a poorer service. I am sure that if we breakdown more recent figures we will see the same pattern, they may be improving regionally but they need to start improving in all areas.

“It is clear people in Suffolk are getting a much poorer deal, particularly the frail and elderly – they deserve better.”

Dr Poulter said he will be calling for the Care Quality Commission to launch an inquiry.

An EEAST spokeswoman said: “The statistics quoted date from 2009/10 while figures provided to the Evening Star by the Trust have demonstrated a continuous upward trend on category A performance since 2006 and we are working hard on improving our service to patients further.

“This is the reason behind meeting Mr Poulter and other MPs in the region.”

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