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NHS trust’s poor 999 response raised in Lords

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AN ambulance trust’s poor performance has been raised in the House of Lords.

Baroness Smith of Basildon highlighted an incident in Bognor where South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) failed to turn up.

The baroness, who lives in the town, said the trust’s response rate for 999 calls was getting worse and it recently had the worst performance ever in the UK.

The Labour leader of the opposition in the Lords said: “I could have picked any day but on September 23 Bognor football club called 999 six times and eventually had to take an injured player, in considerable pain, to hospital by car.

“This isn’t an isolated incident.

“Will the Government now accept its responsibilities to the public and NHS staff and step in to ensure proper funding with effective and decent management?”

Secamb has been struggling to meet 999 targets, citing staff shortages and long waits at hospitals among the reasons for its problems.

In September the service reached 50.8 per cent of high priority calls, such as heart attacks, within eight minutes.

Just 39.9 per cent of less serious but still urgent calls were responded to within the same time.

The national target is 75 per cent.

The trust was placed in special measures in September 2016 and a report published by the Care Quality Commission last month said it had failed to improve sufficiently.

Secamb said it recognised that, along with other ambulance trusts nationally, it was not meeting response time targets.

In response to the incident at Bognor, Secamb said the player had suffered a dislocated shoulder, which was classed as a lower priority category C incident.

This means the service should have responded within 30 minutes but after waiting more than 90 minutes, the patient had been driven to hospital by friends instead.

A spokesman said: “We are extremely sorry for the delay involved in responding to this call.

“We have a duty to prioritise immediately life- threatening calls, and while we are working hard to improve response times across our region, there are times when demand for our services means we are unable to reach some patients as quickly as we would like.

“Calls which have been categorised as non-life threatening can have ambulances assigned to them which are then stood down en route to attend more serious calls.”

The trust was highly criticised in 2015 for running a pilot project without approval to delay sending ambulances until advisers had time to assess some calls coming through the 111 telephone system.

Under the scheme, the ambulance trust gave itself up to ten extra minutes to look again at what type of advice or treatment patients needed and whether an ambulance was really necessary.

However, patients were kept in the dark about the project, as were 111 call handlers and the trust’s board.

The report by NHS England could not confirm which executives implemented the project.

The row led to the trust’s chief executive and chairman stepping down.


Source: The Argus