Ambulance service changes

PATIENTS’ needs will not be met without changes to the ambulance service, its chief executive has reported.

East Midlands Ambulance Service is looking to cut stations and change response procedures to improve call-out times, which regularly fall short of national targets.

EMAS chief executive Phil Milligan wrote in his report on the proposals: “The trust is not able to achieve current or future performance standards unless it changes the way it works and/or has additional funds.

“If we choose not to implement change, we will, quite simply, not be able to meet patients’ needs.”

Lincolnshire’s ambulance response times for patients with the most life threatening conditions are the poorest in the East Midlands and have worsened for the past two years running.

Mr Milligan believes that by reducing the region’s 66 ‘very dated’ ambulance stations to 13 ‘large hubs’ and 131 ‘tactical deployment points’ response times can improve by as much as five per cent. Many existing premises are reported to be in ‘poor physical condition’ requiring a £12.5million investment to meet NHS standards.

With most call-outs responded to by crews already on the road, stations tend to be empty for the majority of the day.

Mr Milligan therefore believes response times could be improved and maintenance cost requirements reduced by closing stations and operating from more ‘optimal locations.’

Skegness Ambulance Station is one of the 13 earmarked to become a hub, supporting crews at the tactical deployment points by ensuring vehicles are clean, well stocked and roadworthy, so that when paramedics can respond to call-outs immediately.

Additional proposals to resolve more non-critical call-outs over the phone are hoped to reserve more ambulance crews for patients who need them the most. Lincolnshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee chairman Coun Christine Talbot has been critical of EMAS and remains sceptical of its proposals to improve.

She said: “It remains to be seen whether the move to close ambulance stations improves response times, but rest assured the health scrutiny committee will be keeping a very close eye on things. Ambulances have for some time been parked in local hotspots awaiting calls, so in essence this is nothing new.