Ambulances failing to hit response targets

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AMBULANCES in the North West are failing to meet targets for getting to serious emergencies on time, according to new figures.

Paramedics have to get to life-threatening incidents within eight minutes, according to government targets.

But new statistics from the Department of Health show the North West Ambulance Service, which covers Wigan, responded to only 73.6 per cent of the most serious cases within the target time last year.

Only the East Midlands had a worse performance, at 72.4 per cent. The national target for responding to life-threatening emergencies within the time limit is 75 per cent.

NWAS’s performance had actually improved since the 2009/10 financial year, when only 73 per cent of responses were on time.

The figures also show that NWAS failed to meet the target for Category B calls - situations which are serious but not life-threatening.

Previous government targets have demanded that 95 per cent of those calls were dealt with within 19 minutes - but the NWAS only met 87 per cent of instances within the time limit.

That performance was the worst of all 12 ambulance trusts in the country.

The figures were announced after the government scrapped the Category B target for next year. Health secretary Andrew Lansley argued that the focus should be on Category A performance, where lives are always at risk.

NWAS defended the results, claiming they were dealing with more 999 calls than ever before.

A spokesman said: “The Department of Health introduced changes to ambulance performance measures from April 1, 2011, and since the end of May, we have been reporting our performance against these new standards.

“These changes are welcomed by the trust, as they continue to monitor response times for patients with life-threatening illnesses but now include new clinical quality indicators which provide a more comprehensive view of the quality of care received by patients using ambulance services.

“We are getting to more patients quicker than we ever have done, but we do see our activity rise year on year which unfortunately does have an impact on performance. From 2009/10 to 2009/2011, we saw an increase of 4.08 per cent in the number of 999 calls received, and already in the first two months of this financial year, we are seeing an increase so far of 1.8 per cent compared to the same time period last year.

“We strive to continually improve response times while maintaining the highest level of patient care and we constantly monitor activity to ensure resources match demand, however, this has to be achieved within the funding allocated to us.”