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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Patients waiting more than an hour for an ambulance in Cumbria

THERE has been no respite for under-strain ambulance crews who continue to miss waiting time targets in the county.

Figures show 10 seriously-ill patients in Cumbria each waited more than an hour for an ambulance in June.

The North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust aims to respond to 75 per cent of emergency Red One and Red Two 999 calls within eight minutes.

But in June paramedics in Cumbria only managed to hit the target for 70 per cent of Red One calls and 67 per cent of Red Two calls.

Red One and Two calls are for immediate threats to life, for example cardiac arrest or respiratory problems.

The trust also aims to respond to 95 per cent of Red calls within 20 minutes, but only managed 86 per cent in the county in June.

NWAS claimed any delays which are a major concern will be “thoroughly investigated.”

But it also claimed the figures did not take into account 999 calls originally categorised as less serious Green One to Four calls, which can have response targets of between 20 minutes and four hours.

A statement said: “If the call is categorised as a Green One to Four we always advise the caller to call again should the patient’s condition deteriorate. If this happens, the call can be re-categorised. But the clock still continues from the original 999 call and will therefore take the incident over the new category’s target response time.”

The trust did acknowledge that other factors also contribute to missed targets.

The statement said: “Of course, there are unfortunately occasions where other factors could be the cause of the delay, for example extreme weather conditions or a high level of activity.”

The trust has seen a significant increase in Red calls in recent months, with a report to its board of directors stating: “The drop in performance for June is attributed to very high demand across all categories but particularly Reds.”

The activity for the month of June has increased by 7.9 per cent across all categories compared to the same period last year. For Red One and Two calls, activity had increased by 13 per cent.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Evening Mail showed 457 patients from 2012 to April this year in Cumbria had waited for ambulances for more than an hour – after 999 calls which should have led to a response of no more than 20 minutes.

Another FOI request showed stress-related illness forced 60 paramedics to miss thousands of days of work in Cumbria since 2011.

The service has delivered £12m of “cost improvements” this year, prompting threats of industrial action from health unions.

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