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 Fast-response cars 'causing

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PostSubject: Fast-response cars 'causing    Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:58 am

Channel 4 News

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Fast-response cars 'causing ambulance delays'

Monday 19 December 2011

An increasing reliance by ambulance trusts on
fast-response cars means some ambulances are taking longer to reach
seriously ill patients, Channel 4 News has found.

Dial 999, say ambulances, and it's increasingly likely that
you'll be sent a car or a motorcycle as trusts use quicker, cheaper
vehicles to respond to calls in government-set deadlines, writes
Channel 4 News Northern Correspondent Morland Sanders.

Yet paramedics have told Channel 4 News
that the reliance on so-called fast-response vehicles is putting the
lives of some critically ill patients on the line, and it can't even be
guaranteed that the person behind the wheel is a qualified paramedic.

'50 minutes before an ambulance arrived'

Flynn Thomas pushes a toy ambulance across the kitchen
table. He's imaginative, bright and like any three year old boy
somewhat robust in his play but as his mother watches on she's close to

Amy is recalling how ill Flynn became in September this year
when he collapsed at the family home. She rang 999 and a paramedic
duly arrived in a car after twelve minutes but the paramedic quickly
realised that Flynn was too ill to be treated at home, he needed an
ambulance to take him to hospital - that's when the waiting began.

Amy Thomas said: "It was 50 minutes before the ambulance
arrived, watching him slowly dying, it was the most horrendous thing
I've ever felt in my life, don't want to ever feel like that again."

After nearly an hour Flynn was eventually on his way to A&E and is now back to being a healthy boy.

The ambulance trust responsible said the main reason for the
delay was an unpredictable rise in 999 calls in the area that evening.

'Not enough ambulances to send quickly'

Yet some frontline staff say waiting tens of vital minutes
for an ambulance to arrive is becoming increasingly common. The reason,
they say is a combination of more 999 calls and the decision to answer
them with a growing number of fast response cars.

Jim Petter, for the College of Paramedics, told Channel 4 News:
"The ambulance service's response is to put out as many people on solo
response cars as possible meaning that at peak times there isn't an
ambulance to send quickly to back those people up."

Official figures show that 60,000 emergency ambulance
call-outs have failed to meet government response targets since April
this year.

And Channel 4 News has been told it's the increasing number of cars that may be to blame.

Putting lives on the line

So we decided to look at the figures over the past three years. Nine out of 11 trusts provided data.

We found that in four of those trusts ambulances are taking
longer to reach the most seriously ill patients and we discovered that
three of these have increased the proportion of cars.

Among these three trusts, on average, more than a third of
the emergency fleet are now cars, incapable of taking a critically ill
patient to hospital.

Paramedics we've spoken to say the emphasis on cars can put
lives on the line. One who works alone in a car agreed to speak to us
on condition of anonymity, for fear of losing his job.

One parademic told Channel 4 News: "The
main concerns are we respond to incidents and when we require a backup
ambulance it can take up to 45, 50 minutes on some occasions. The
majority of the time it's quite good, but there is lots of occasions
when there isn't enough ambulances around.

"Lives are put at risk. At the moment I'm ashamed to be an ambulance man because there is too much time lost."

Falling short of best practice?

The trusts say they are trying to meet a government target
to attend life-threatening calls within eight minutes, which is based
on clinical evidence, cars help them to meet this. But it's who is
manning these cars which has been highlighted to Channel 4 News as another potential threat to patient care.

It is widely considered best practice that these rapid
response vehicles should be staffed by a paramedic. But it now seems
clear that frequently they are crewed by a lower clinical grade member
of staff called an ambulance technician, someone who is less capable of
keeping a critically ill patient alive.

"If you send out a solo response of a lower clinical grade
and then they don't get back-up quickly, that becomes a problem because
they can't continue to manage that patient in the way that they should
be," says Jim Petter of the College of Paramedics.

Even the umbrella organisation representing the trusts, the
Ambulance Service Network, didn't seem to be aware that cars were
crewed by technicians.

"My understanding is that the people in who are solo
responders are paramedics. I would say that the best practice would be
to have paramedics as solo responders," according to Jo Webber,
director of the Ambulance Service Network

But this best practice is something that parts of our
ambulance service are seemingly falling well short of. We're told
technicians are working alone in cars and a number of trusts say they
plan to increase fast response vehicles over the next few years -
despite those on the frontline telling us that both policies mean lives
could in fact be lost.


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