Suffolk: “Patients will die as they wait for ambulances” - whistleblowing paramedics lift lid on “terrible state” of East of England trust

SUFFOLK: Patients will die waiting for ambulances, a whistleblowing paramedic has today claimed.

The source, a rapid response driver who has asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job at the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST), claims he has to watch patients deteriorate in front of him as he waits for back-up to arrive. He says back up often takes up to 90 minutes.

On Tuesday, The Evening Star launched Ambulance Watch 2011, after damning figures published by the Department of Health revealed the EEAST is the only trust in the country which failed to meet its target of answering 75 per cent of the most urgent calls – Category A calls – within eight minutes during July.

In Suffolk 74.2pc of emergency calls were answered within eight minutes during August, and over the year to date just 70.1pc of Category A calls have been responded to within the set time frame.

The campaign comes 15 years after the Star’s original Ambulance Watch uncovered the failings of the former East Anglian Ambulance Trust after a series of tragedies.

Concerned frontline paramedics have today told the Star of regularly waiting between 30 and 90 minutes for ambulances to arrive at incidents to take patients to hospital for treatment.

One source, who has worked for the ambulance service for more than 20 years in Suffolk, said the trust is in “a terrible state”, worse than he has ever known.

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He revealed he was recently left waiting for 50 minutes tending to a patient who was bleeding heavily, fearing she would suffer a life-threatening haemorrhage and bleed to death before the ambulance arrived.

“She needed immediate hospital treatment but I had to wait 50 minutes for an ambulance to turn up and take her to hospital,” he said. “It is something which will live with me forever. She could have lost her life.”

He added: “I think it is building up, someone will bleed to death or die waiting at the scene for an ambulance. It is getting worse.

“There are not enough ambulances as they have cut back, I work a response car and I regularly have to wait between 30 to 90 minutes for an ambulance to help me take seriously ill patients to hospital.

“I have to watch them deteriorate in front of me.”

“Unless there is action patients will die waiting to be transported to hospital where they can be saved,” he added.

Meanwhile another colleague has come forward backing The Evening Star’s campaign.

He said: “I would like to say on behalf of all the hard working paramedics and technicians who work for the East of England Ambulance Service a big thank you for highlighting the problems we, in our trust face.

“On a daily basis solo responding staff have to wait for excessive amounts of time on scene waiting for a double-crewed ambulance to convey patients to hospital, it is not unusual to wait in excess of one hour for an ambulance.

“It really is embarrassing to the staff and more so detrimental to the patient.”

n The chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service has spoken out in defence of the trust.

Hayden Newton said the trust are required to reduce costs so are constantly looking at how to manage their fleet more effectively.

He said: “Patients are our number one priority so while we acknowledge that we do face economic challenges and a rise in calls we aim to meet these while improving patient care by delivering a tailor-made service rather than unnecessarily sending a double crewed ambulance out to every call.

“We, like other NHS bodies, are required to reduce operating costs as all public sector organisations work to redesign services to make them more cost effective and of high quality in the future.

“We have a dedicated Operational Performance Improvement Team which is working hard to cut response times while ensuring patients get the care they need.

“The calls we get range from minor to life-threatening so it is not appropriate to send the same resources to both.

“We are improving our fleet strategy to reflect the types of calls we get and the best response is often a fully-equipped rapid response vehicle (RRV) staffed by a highly-trained clinician, which helps us reach and treat patients quicker.

“It also allows higher priority calls to get a double-crewed ambulance more quickly. Ambulances can also be sent out at the same time to back up an RRV.

“As chief executive officer I regularly carries out a series of roadshows to visit stations and hear from staff directly about what their main concerns are.”