East of England ambulance response times condemned by firefighters

Ambulance Service

Ambulance Service - Credit: Archant

FURTHER criticism has been levelled at the region’s ambulance service over its tardy response to some calls, including in St Albans.

Fire service representatives have declared they are unhappy about providing a “cheap solution” to help their emergency counterparts, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST).

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has echoed concerns raised last week in the national media by police officers about delays in professional ambulance crews attending 999 emergencies in East Anglia.

Last Thursday the Herts Advertiser revealed a four-year-old boy was left waiting 30 minutes with a bleeding head injury in the snow for an ambulance, which never turned up. His father had to transport the boy to hospital himself.

Keith Handscomb of East Anglia FBU said while members applauded the skills and commitment of paramedics and ambulance crews, firefighters, “are telling us something is going seriously wrong with the 999 response of the East of England Ambulance Service.

“Fire crews tell us they and casualties are waiting longer and longer for the arrival of paramedics and ambulances.”

He said firefighters had told the union about their, “desperate frustration at being told to wait in line when chasing up emergency requests for the attendance of an ambulance – sometimes they are told the ambulance sent to their emergency has been redirected to another call due to there being no other ambulance available.

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“And we have received reports where EEAST have sent a private ambulance to casualties in a road traffic accident without either of the crew apparently having the professional medical skills needed to deal with the emergency.”

Keith added that while extra first aid training for police officers and fire crews might sound like a, “cheap solution to ambulance delays, when any of us find ourselves in a serious medical emergency, what we really need really quickly are professional paramedics and ambulance crews to treat us and take us to hospital.

“Something needs to be done but looking for a sticking plaster to treat a gaping wound is not the answer. For those who find themselves in medical emergencies, this is a matter of life and death importance.”

A spokesman for EEAST said that delays were down to the national prioritisation system.

He said that rather than ambulances not being available, if information given at the scene of an incident indicated a non-emergency, patients were given a longer waiting time than those in a life-threatening condition.

The spokesman went on: “Response targets are set from between eight minutes to an hour according to clinical need and, while a longer target may not be ideal for police and fire crews, it means those in life-threatening situations are prioritised, similar to the way they are at A&E.”

He said most incidents attended by all three emergency services were road traffic collisions and “the majority of these do not cause serious injury”.

The EEAST has made improvements including hiring 140 new frontline staff, better rotas and liaising with hospitals to reduce handover times.