West Norfolk‘s ambulance response target missed again

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Patients in West Norfolk are still having to wait longer than they should for an ambulance to reach them, according to inspectors.

The latest report into the East of England Ambulance Trust said it was failing to meet care and staffing standards and gave managers four weeks to submit an action plan to tackle the problems.

However, the report, which was published on Wednesday, said the trust was meeting standards in five out of seven assessment areas, “taking reasonable steps” to address the issues and had made significant progress to tackle problems in several other areas.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors assessed the service during an unannounced visit carried out over four days last month.

Although complaints about ambulance delays have fallen, they found the trust was failing to meet national targets which say that an ambulance should respond to 75 per cent of life-threatening emergency calls within eight minutes.

A 95 per cent target to reach incidents where a solo responder was first on the scene within 19 minutes is also being missed.

The report said: “There continued to be a variation in response time performance in different geographical areas, with the trust consistently failing to meet them (targets) in some areas of Norfolk.”

A trust spokesman yesterday confirmed that West Norfolk, which was found to have some of the worst response rates in the whole region last spring, was among the areas still affected.

The report also revealed that, although managers had identified a need to recruit hundreds of new staff, there had only been a net gain of four new paramedics up to the end of November.

And an unnamed senior fire officer was quoted as saying: “Quite simply they just don’t seem to have the necessary resources to meet the demand.”

However, the inspectors said “significant improvements” had been made in several areas, including a fall in staff sickness rates and the amount being spent on the use of private ambulances.

Targets relating to responses to less urgent calls are also being met.

The trust’s chief executive, Dr Anthony Marsh, welcomed the report, which he said showed both the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done.

Officials now have until February 19 to submit a report to the CQC detailing the action they plan to take in order to tackle the failings identified in the report.

And Dr Marsh said: “I can clearly see the determination of everyone throughout the service, from the Board to the front line, to succeed and provide the type of service that we all want to see.”

However, the trust is now looking for a new chairman after its interim head, Dr Geoffrey Harris, resigned on Tuesday, ahead of the publication of the report.

He said he felt it was the right time for him to step aside now that a new management team has been appointed.

He added: “I am confident that under Anthony’s stewardship, the trust will continue to move forwards.”