Friday, 19 September 2008

Ambulances running late for emergencies

RESPONSE times to emergencies in Ledbury and Colwall are so poor the West Midlands Ambulance Service has been called to account by Herefordshire Council.

With other areas of the county faring better, the situation is being called “a postcode lottery”.

Category A emergencies are those classed as immediately life threatening.

The official target is for ambulances to get to 75 per cent of these in eight minutes. Last month, ambulances got to 89.5 per cent of Category A emergencies in Bromyard within eight minutes. The figure for the Colwall area was just 20 per cent.

The Ledbury figures were 72.7 per cent in August, 57.9 per cent in July, 57.1 per cent in June and 50 per cent in May. The statistics will be examined at a health scrutiny committee meeting at the council chambers in Brockington, Hereford, on Tuesday at 10am. All are welcome to speak at the meeting.

Committee chairman and Ledbury councillor Kay Swinburne said: “The ambulance service will be genuinely scrutinised.

“They have been briefed that they will need to justify not having more vehicles available here and they will be asked to explain the data.

“They can tell me they’ve had problems with Colwall Bridge but the data is appalling.”

Coun Peter Watts, who also represents Ledbury, said: “It’s a postcode lottery and the ambulance service needs to raise its game.”

The situation has added urgency following the death in July of Ledbury pensioner Alfred ‘Pip’ Parry.

He had to wait for an ambulance for at least 17 minutes, although his family say it was a lot longer. Mr Watts said: “That recent tragic occurence made people aware of how vulnerable they could be.”

Chris Kowalik of West Midlands Ambulance service, said: “We always have and always will send the nearest available resource to an emergency call.

“However, it is a fact of life that in rural areas it will take longer for ambulance crews to get to a patient.”

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