Response time missed on half of most serious 999 ambulance calls

SECAMB vehicles SUS-140228-090646001
SECAMB vehicles SUS-140228-090646001

Sussex’s ambulance service missed its target on almost half of the most serious 999 calls last month.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), which has been in special measures since May 2016, met the eight minute response time on just 50.8 per cent of red one calls in September, and 39.9 per cent of red two calls.

The national target is 75 per cent for red one calls, which are categorised as immediately life-threatening incidents.

The drop in performance is due to a higher rate of staff turnover, the need for staff to be abstracted for training, delays at hospitals, and a rise in the percentage of calls received being categorised as red one, according to the trust.

Labour MP for Hove Peter Kyle described the figures as the ‘worst performance ever recorded in UK’ and called for a meeting with SECAmb bosses and NHS Improvement.

A spokesman for the trust said: “Our executive team continues to closely monitor our 999 performance on a weekly basis to ensure our performance improves and patients receive the service they rightly expect.

“We recognise that, along with other ambulance trusts nationally, we are not meeting response time targets. We also recognise that in recent months our performance has continued to be lower than we would like and this is due to a number of factors.

“These include on-going abstraction challenges within our emergency operations centres, (EOC), particularly for 999 call handlers requiring additional training ahead of our implementation of the Ambulance Response Programme changes.

“This training has closely followed separate training for EOC staff ahead of the introduction of our new Computer Aided Dispatch system earlier this year.

“This has, at times, reduced our ability to answer calls in a timely manner and in turn impacted on our Red 1 and Red 2 performance. We have also seen an increase in the rate of attrition within EOC staff. We are working hard to recruit additional EOC staff, and in particular emergency medical advisors.

“Delays at hospitals also continue to have an impact on our responsiveness. We are continuing to work closely with hospitals across our region to ensure patients are handed over as quickly as possible so that our crews are available to respond to patients in the community.

“In combination with the above challenges, we have also seen a significant rise in the overall acuity of our activity, with ‘Red’ calls increasing to some 44 per cent of the overall activity compared to 36 per cent three months ago.

“It should also be noted the new call categories which will be introduced as part of our move to the new national response standards will see the two highest priority call category performance monitored by an average response time rather than by a target percentage of calls attended within a timeframe.

“We believe that our implementation of the Ambulance Response Programme changes will benefit patients by enabling us to better respond to patients with the greatest need.

“We continue to experience year-on-year increases in demand and we are very proud of the efforts and professionalism of all our staff.”

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