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Heart attack and stroke patients could have to wait up to 40 MINUTES for an ambulance under controversial overhaul of response times amid growing shortage of paramedics

Current targets across England are being scrapped in favour of a new system

  • The overhaul will allow patients to get life-saving treatment quicker than ever
  • It comes amid a record number of 999 calls, and severe shortage of paramedics

Heart attack and stroke patients could have to wait 40 minutes for an ambulance under a controversial overhaul of response time targets.

Current goals across England are being scrapped by the NHS in favour of a radical shake-up which officials say will save more lives.

Backed by ministers, the move comes amid a record number of 999 calls, complimented with a severe shortage of paramedics.

Targets will be relaxed for millions come September, with suspected heart attacks moving from the life-threatening category to just emergency.

It means these patients having will not be guaranteed an ambulance within eight minutes, the health service’s current guidelines.

Instead 90 per cent of patients will be seen within 40 minutes, but some lives could be in danger as they are forced to wait even longer by stretched crews.

Current ambulance targets across England are being scrapped by the NHS in favour of a new system which officials say will save more lives

Current ambulance targets across England are being scrapped by the NHS in favour of a new system which officials say will save more lives

The changes involve regarding fewer 999 calls as life-threatening, allowing patients most at risk to get life-saving treatment quicker than ever before, it is claimed.

Currently, half of all calls are deemed life-threatening. A paramedic is expected to be on the scene for these within eight minutes.

From this autumn, the most serious calls, such as when a person is not breathing or their heart has stopped, will warrant a seven minute response time.

Relaxed targets 

More than 10.7million calls were made to ambulance services in 2015/16, a 30 per cent rise in four years.

AND EXPERTS SAY IT WILL WORK…

The new set of performance targets could allow over-stretched ambulance services to use their restricted resources more efficiently, a study has found.

Sheffield University researchers analysed more than 14 million 999 calls for their extensive research into the new NHS England plans.

They discovered that the changes to call handling and dispatch will enable ambulance services to use their resources much more effectively.

The study claimed that it will free up 750,000 vehicles to make them available to respond to emergency calls immediately.

On top of this, ambulance services are facing a recruitment crisis, with as many as one in ten paramedic roles vacant.

This is having a severe impact on ambulance response times, and many severely ill patients have been left waiting more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive

More assessment time 

As part of the changes, call handlers will also be given more to time to assess 999 requests – and paramedics more time to respond.

The idea is to ensure managers send an ambulance only to those patients that really need one, even if it arrives slightly later.

NHS England bosses said that at present, many calls classed as life-threatening turn out not to be.

A quarter of patients currently classed as life-threatening are not transported to hospital.

Stopping the clock

Professor Keith Willett, of NHS England, said one of the problems with the current system was that crews were being unnecessarily dispatched to ‘stop the clock’.

He told the BBC: ‘This has led to the inefficient use of ambulances, with the knock-on effect of hidden waits.’

The move comes after a time trial was launched in three of the country’s ten ambulance services, which serve 16 million patients, earlier this year.

Most of the public were unaware of the plans at the time, until it was highlighted in a report by the National Audit Office.

It was gradually introduced in the three regions last year with no announcements, fuelling concerns that the public have been deliberately kept in the dark.

THE GREAT AMBULANCE BETRAYAL

By Sophie Borland, Health Editor for The Daily Mail

Health chiefs stand accused of putting lives at risk by sending cars to 999 emergencies instead of ambulances.

The rapid response vehicles help bosses hit arrival time targets. But the cars can carry to hospital only patients well enough to sit in the back seat.

Despite this, East of England Ambulance Service used the cars for 42 per cent of its most serious call-outs in April. A year earlier the figure was just 31 per cent.

The situation is ‘perverse in the extreme’, according to Norman Lamb, Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk, which is covered by East of England.

‘It looks very much like the trust’s focus has been on hitting targets rather than maximising patient safety,’ he said.

‘Sending a car to an emergency where the patient needs an ambulance might satisfy the target, but it can badly delay the patient getting to hospital.’

Source: Daily Mail

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