Ambulances miss national targeted response times as public demand for services rises

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 December 2018

The couple died at the scene of the collision.

The couple died at the scene of the collision.


Sidmouth’s ambulances missed national targets on 106 occasions in a four-month period.

Ambulance. Picture: Mark AthertonAmbulance. Picture: Mark Atherton

The government sets response time targets for ambulance call outs but South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) says an unprecedented rise in public demand means it has to prioritise the most critically ill patients.

Critically ill patients are known as category one call outs and will involve a patient who has suffered issues such as cardiac or respiratory arrest. Category one call outs have a target response time of 15 minutes. There were 45 call outs of this kind in the EX10 postcode between July 1 and October 28 this year. 10 missed the response target.

SWASFT dealt with a total of 936 call outs in the period, with 106 of them missing their target response time.

A SWASFT spokesman said: ““Like all ambulance services around the country we continue to see an unprecedented rise in public demand for our services.

“As such, we must prioritise our resources and our response for those most critically ill patients.

“The new national ambulance response programme (ARP) ensures that the most life-threatening and time-critical patients receive a priority response.

“Unfortunately, with finite resources, this means that those patients assessed as being less urgent may have to wait longer. We would not wish for any patient to experience a long wait, and we have worked exceptionally hard to improve our response time performance.

“We will continue to work with our strategic partners to negotiate further resources to enable us to deliver the highest quality response to patients.”

Emergency calls are categorised dependent on their severity.

From July to October, 525 call outs were category two,which refers to patients in a potentially life threatening condition such as those who have suffered a heart attack, stroke or major burn.

This is the most common category and makes up approximately 50% of 999 calls. 30 of these were late.

Category three is patients in urgent clinical conditions, which will likely require hospital treatment, such as an isolated limb fracture or a burn. These have a target time of three hours, and 51 out of the 293 call outs (17%) missed target.

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