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Norfolk trust’s concern over ambulance response times

PUBLISHED: 06:30 25 January 2013

The ambulances at the Accident and Emergency department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The ambulances at the Accident and Emergency department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Archant © 2007

Under scrutiny ambulance chiefs may struggle to hit Norfolk response targets this year, the county’s health bosses warned.

Fears were raised that the East of England Ambulance Service’s performance was deteriorating, despite plans being put into place to improve response times.

One board member of Norfolk and Waveney NHS described the situation as “horrendous” after it emerged that one in ten patients wait more than an hour in the back of an ambulance outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital because of slow handover times.

Members of the primary care trust (PCT) were told on Wednesday that for the eight months to the end of November, 63.9pc of A8 category emergency calls were responded to within eight minutes, compared to its 68pc target.

The board heard that the ambulance trust’s overall response performance was falling towards 74pc.

John Harris, head of the ambulance contracting team from the East of England Consortium, said health commissioners would see a “quantum change” in performance if the ambulance trust addressed staff sickness issues, staff resource to cope with demand, and where they were based. He added that the interim chief executive of the NHS trust, Andrew Morgan, was putting in measures to get “quick wins” and resolve the “unpopular” rota redesign to improve services.

“We are commissioning an independent capacity review starting with Norfolk first to see how much better it can be on the ground. We expect them to hit certain performance targets by the end of the year. There is a grave risk that 75pc is not achievable by the end of the year,” he said.

The EDP launched its Ambulance Watch campaign last year to highlight slow response times in rural Norfolk and Suffolk.

Members were told that Operation Domino - a partnership launched at the end of 2012 to improve emergency and urgent care in Norfolk – would start seeing results in the next few months.

John Plaskett, a non-executive director for NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said Norfolk response times and ambulance turnaround figures were the worst “by a long way” in the East.

“If they can fix Norfolk, they fix their regional response times. Both the ambulance trust and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have not taken this as a huge priority. In industry this would have been fixed. It is horrendous performance,” he said.

Non-executive director Jeff Halliwell added that the ongoing delays in ambulance responses and turnover times represented an “appalling level of patient care.”

Concerns were also raised yesterday about a new 111 phoneline for non-emergency heathcare, which is being operated by the East of England Ambulance Service, after it experienced problems over the Christmas and New Year period.

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