South Western ambulance service response times soar for most urgent calls
By David Wullf
Originally published by Tiverton and Honiton Liberal Democrats
South Western ambulance service response times for the most serious incidents, e.g. cardiac arrest, have increased to 11m 38s in December compared to November, new Ambulance Service Statistics have revealed.
The statistics, released from NHS England, show that average wait times for serious incidents have worsened in every region in England over the past month, failing to meet both the Category 1 and Category 2 callout times.
Locally, the statistics show that when comparing November to last month, ambulance wait times for calls in the South West worsened further, with patients across the area being left to wait even longer when they called an ambulance.
Wait times for Category 1 calls reached highs of 11 minutes 38 seconds in December, well over the NHS target set. In addition, urgent Category 2 callouts have not improved, with the average wait time in December still a shocking 1 hour 13 minutes, which was the worst in the country.
The standard wait time for a "Category 1" incident should be no longer than 7 minutes due to the urgency of the matter, meaning the wait times are well in excess of NHS targets. Similarly, the NHS target for "Category 2" is 18 minutes, meaning almost all of the most urgent calls for ambulance services are being missed.
Liberal Democrats are calling for the Government to commission an investigation by the Care Quality Commission without further delay.
Responding to the new figures, Tiverton Cllr Matt Farrell said:
"It is disastrous that our local NHS services are under such severe pressure. We need real investment in our area with a plan from the Government.
"The Conservatives have taken the South West for granted for decades and now we're seeing local patients and families pay the price.
"The Government needs to step up and stop taking our area for granted. Health service wait times across the board are struggling, our local health staff are under immense pressure, and it looks like things are getting even worse."
Mid Devon campaigner David Wulff added his own experience:
"In late December I needed to call an ambulance for a patient experiencing a Category 1 emergency. The South Western ambulance crew arrived at around 13 minutes after the request, and had travelled from out of town because the local crews were unavailable. They were of course brilliant once they arrived, but they were concerned that they may not be able to unload at the RD&E hospital immediately upon arrival.
"Our local NHS services are grossly underfunded. The coronavirus pandemic may be stretching staff and service levels closer to breaking point, but the problem has been made worse by many years of underinvestment."
NHS England's Ambulance Quality Indicators, published on 13 January 2022, are available here.
These figures refer to Category 1 incidents: An immediate response to a life-threatening condition, such as cardiac or respiratory arrest. The NHS target is an average response time to these incidents of 7 minutes, and for 90% of them to be responded to within 15 minutes. The NHS target for Category 2 is 18 minutes.