Ambulances still failing to hit Northamptonshire response time targets

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The ambulance service for Northamptonshire is still missing callout targets in the county, the Telegraph has revealed.

East Midlands Ambulance Service normally refers to regional figures, but response time statistics for our county seen by the Telegraph this week show the service is failing to reach the Government-set target of attending serious, life threatening calls within eight minutes of receiving the call in Northamptonshire.

The figures show it is attending 70.1 per cent of the most serious Category A calls within eight minutes, according to figures in the Nene Clinical Commissioning Group’s Delivery Plan for 2013-14.

The national target is 75 per cent.

The plan published in April states: “EMAS is currently not performing at the required constitution standards.”

The news comes days after the chief executive Phil Milligan resigned saying he has left the service in a strong position.

In March the ammbulance service announced plans to improve its performance and the board approved the “Being the Best” proposals, which would create nine ambulance hubs, 19 ambulance stations and 108 community ambulance stations.

“However, these plans have been criticised by residents and unions.

When he announced the plans, Mr Milligan, who resigned on August 2, said: “The way we operate now is simply not delivering the performance that local people deserve and national Government expects.

“The changes we have approved will improve performance on life-threatening calls by nearly four per cent.”

The service also failed to meet a 19-minute call-out target of 95 per cent in Northamptonshire, attending 93.7 per cent of calls within that time.

According to its own statistics, if it had got to an average of six calls a day three minutes faster it would have hit the target.

In a statement, EMAS said: “We are commissioned to meet national performance standard across the whole of our patch over a full year.

“We are on the right track; our performance is improving and we expect to see Being the Best deliver further benefits.

“Negotiations with the organisations who pay us to provide emergency services have been successful and this year we’ve been given additional funding which will be spent on extra frontline staff.

“This is on top of the 140 new staff we announced in March 2013.”

EMAS has failed to meet targets for three years in succession, which has landed it with a £11m fine.

“And in March the Care Quality Commission said it needed to take action over its care of patients, staffing and training and support.

There were proposals to close the ambulance stations in Corby, Daventry, Mereway, Rushden, Towcester and Wellingborough, leaving Northampton and Kettering as the only two ambulance hubs.

However, Corby MP Andy Sawford says he has been told the station at Corby will remain open.

Mr Sawford said: “This is great news for Corby. I have been trying to change the mind of EMAS on this issue ever since its proposals for our local ambulance station were announced.

“The chief executive’s insistence that this change was all part of his plan to improve response times in the area never made sense to me.”

Mr Sawford said he had no news on the five other stations in the county.

Service plans

The Being the Best programme was approved at an EMAS Trust board meeting on March 25, 2013.

In a statement released after the meeting, the then chief executive, Phil Milligan, said: “The aim of our Being the Best programme has always been to improve response times to emergency 999 calls and to improve the working lives of our frontline staff.”

He added: “The changes will be better for staff, with more support and time to care for patients – not vehicles.”

The plan was for the service to implement a hub-and-spoke model with nine hubs, 19 ambulance stations and 108 community ambulance stations, a model that has worked well in the south-west and West Midlands.

Make Ready teams will be based at each hub and ambulance station to clean and stock emergency vehicles so they can get out on the road again more quickly. The service is also trialling a community paramedic scheme.

EMAS hopes to base its community ambulance stations with other services and estimates 70 per cent will be “co-located” with police, fire or other public sector organisations.

Staff rotas will also be examined as currently there are not enough duty hours allocated to cover the middle of the day when demand is high and there are too many for the middle of the night when demand is lower.

Thousands of calls

EMAS covers Northamptonshire, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, and serves 4.8 million people, receiving 2,000 999 calls a day, the equivalent of a call every 45 seconds.

The service employs 2,700 staff at more than 70 locations and has a fleet of about 530 vehicles.

It has an annual budget of £148 million.

Between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013, it provided 28,549 journeys to hospital for people in Northamptonshire reported to be in a life-threatening condition.

According to EMAS figures it failed to meet the national target of responding to 75 per cent of the most life threatening calls in eight minutes and the 95 per cent target to respond in 19 minutes , in 2010-11.

The following year, it achieved the 75 per cent target, by responding to 75.15 per cent of calls in eight minutes, but again failed to hit the 19 minute target.

The figures for June 2013 show that the service continued to hit the 75 per cent target but is still failing to hit the 95 per cent target, responding to 94.4 per cent of calls within 19 minutes.

These figures are for the whole of the region the service covers.