UPDATED: East Midlands Ambulance Service criticised in House of Commons
East Midlands Ambulance Service has been criticised in the House of Commons for “slower” response times in rural areas.
The debate came ahead of the completion of a business case outlining possible answers to the problem, due for publication on March 25.
John Mann, MP for Basstlaw, said: “Setting response time (targets) as they are means that ambulance services will disproportionately put their resources in the high-density cities rather than in rural areas.”
South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler said: “In my constituency we have had numerous cases of elderly people falling over in a park and having to wait hours for an ambulance.”
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Meanwhile ambulance staff said they had an increase in the number of life-threatening 999 calls at the start of winter – as they failed to reach patients quickly enough in November.
Every year, East Midlands Ambulance Service is required to reach 75% of all life-threatening calls within eight minutes.
It must also get an ambulance to 95% of all emergency calls within 19 minutes.
In May this year, the service was fined £2.5 million for missing the 19-minute target between 2011-2012, although it met the eight-minute standard. The previous year, it was also fined £5 million for failing to hit targets.
The trust is now working towards meeting both standards in 2012-2013 but, in November, a report shows they reached 72.39% of calls put under the eight-minute standard and 92.93% under the 19-minute target.
But it is not known exactly what the service's year-to-date percentages are at this point. A spokeswoman for the service said: "Ambulance services are commissioned, or paid, to meet the 75% and 95% performance standards over a 12-month period, from April 1 to March 31.
"During November, we received high-demand levels, with red responses – where crews travel to patients reported to be in a life-threatening condition – increasing 5% compared to the same month in 2011."
In previous years, the trust put down missing targets to treacherous conditions in winter – with bad weather making it difficult for ambulance vehicles to get to hard-to-reach places in rural areas.
According to the report, the trust's senior managers put plans in place this financial year ahead of winter.
These include receiving additional funding from local health trusts, working with hospitals to reduce the time it takes for paramedics to hand over patients – getting the ambulance back on the road quicker – and freeing up paramedics by sending other medical staff to less urgent calls.