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South-West is worst for ambulance responses

May 12, 2022 10:29 PM
By Lib Dems
Originally published by Trevor Carbin Liberal Democrat

The Liberal Democrats have criticised the Government for presiding over an ambulance waiting time crisis "spiralling out of control", as new figures show that people across the country are facing increasingly dangerous delays.

A Parliamentary Question tabled by the party's health spokesperson Daisy Cooper has revealed that people in need of emergency medical attention, are waiting almost twenty minutes longer on average than they would have two years ago.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for emergency action to be taken in the upcoming Queen's Speech to address the crisis and give paramedics and handlers the support they need. This includes urgent investment in A&E departments and a new Community Ambulance Fund, as well as a review of ambulance station closures across England.

The data shows that none of the 11 ambulance services in England are currently meeting the target set by the NHS of an 18 minute response time to a Category 2 call (those that are classed as an emergency or potentially serious). Instead, eight of the services have an average ambulance response time of more than double that target, and people in every region of England are facing longer waits than they did in 2020.

The situation is so dire in the South West that those who suffer a medical emergency such as a heart attack or stroke (Category 2 calls) may have to wait over an hour before an ambulance arrives. This is more than double the length of time two years ago. Meanwhile the average wait for Category 3 calls, which can include women in advanced labour, has reached nearly three hours.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

"Boris Johnson has broken trust with people again and again, now he is in charge of a system where if you dial 999 you don't know if anyone will arrive in time. Staff are at breaking point and lives are in danger.

"People up and down the country have been abandoned by the Conservatives in their shocking failure to address long waiting times for an ambulance. Those in rural areas are even being left to wait an hour when they have a heart attack.

"Liberal Democrats have been sounding the alarm for months and months. This issue is spiralling out of control and it's simply not good enough that Johnson and his Government are turning a blind eye. Ignoring this crisis won't stop the heartbreaking stories we hear every day of people stranded for hours on end for help that too often comes too late.

"Patients and families across the country deserve better than waiting in pain and distress, or even worse, losing loved ones. After years of driving our NHS into the ground, the Conservatives really need to wake up to this life threatening crisis, make a plan and turn this around.

"We need to see that plan in the Queen's Speech this Tuesday so that this issue is treated with the urgency it demands."

Daisy Cooper's Written Parliamentary Question can be found here.

Category 2 responses are defined as "A serious condition, such as stroke or chest pain, which may require rapid assessment and/or urgent transport". Category 3 responses are defined as "An urgent problem, such as an uncomplicated diabetic issue, which requires treatment and transport to an acute setting" [source].

The average ambulance response time in England for Category 2 in 2021/22 is 41m 17s. This is up from 23m 50s in 2019/20. The NHS target response time for Category 2 is 18 minutes. and at least 9 out of 10 times (90th percentile) within 40 minutes.

The Liberal Democrats have called for a Community Ambulance Fund to both keep ambulance stations open and reverse closures around the country. For example, a recent Freedom of Information Request tabled by the Party found that 57 ambulance stations in the West Midlands had been shut down in the past five years.