Long delays and ambulance shortages put patients at risk

Posted: 13/05/2013


A whistleblowing paramedic has warned that delays and ambulance shortages are putting patients at real risk of harm and even possible death.

The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS), which covers a population of just under 6 million people across the regions of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, has provided a service plagued by delays, and has recently admitted that the service is falling short.

New staff and ambulances are due to be obtained. However, a key concern is that 'lone response' paramedics are initially able to attend patients but are then often having to wait several hours for ambulances to attend. This is despite Department of Health targets which require the most urgent 999 calls to be responded to within eight minutes.

These delays have led to the death of patients, with the whistleblowing paramedic indicating that he has experienced two such occasions where death occurred as a result of ambulance vehicles not being immediately available.

Stories which have come to light include a delay of four hours, resulting in the death of a woman from bowel ischaemia. An investigation is currently being carried out into the death of a baby girl, following a delay in response to a 999 call. One man has told of being left stranded twice after a heart attack; one ambulance had been diverted, whilst another had run out of petrol. He finally attended hospital three hours after the initial call was made.

Unsurprisingly, in light of the instances described above, it is thought that the number of complaints against the service has significantly increased, with a 71% rise in the number of complaints made in 2012-13, compared to the previous year.

Others have highlighted that the concerns don't just relate to the lack of response vehicles available, but also the lack of space in the Accident and Emergency Departments when the ambulances do in fact arrive at hospital with patients. One doctor has advised that, in some areas, the ambulance crews are waiting for lengthy periods of time before being able to drop off their patients, which, in turn, also has a massive impact on the service.

Ever increasing budget cuts mean that the service will need to find more savings, despite the need for more staff and vehicles.

Penningtons therefore hopes that, in the future, a balance can be struck between making these savings, whilst improving response times and subsequently reducing the risk to patients' health.


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