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Thursday, 30 June 2005 10:45
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Ambulance response times to increase
Government plans to increase the minimum response time for ambulances attending potentially fatal emergencies have been attacked by health officials for endangering the lives of patients, the Daily Mail has reported.

Current guidelines state that ambulances should reach 95 per cent of potentially fatal Category A cases within 14 minutes of receiving a 999 call in cities and within 19 minutes in rural areas.

But a government inquiry has recommended that this response time be extended to 27 minutes in all areas, with a first aid expert arriving by car or motorbike within eight minutes.

Ray Carrick of the Ambulance service union said there was concern within the health service over the suitability of first-aiders as ambulance substitutes.

"27 minutes for ambulances to reach Category A patients is appalling," he said.

"At the moment, even when you are sending a lay responder you are also mobilising an ambulance. The first responder is there to cover until the ambulance arrives.

"To think that a lay responder is deciding whether or not an ambulance should even be called and delaying that call-out by eight minutes is unbelievable."

The Department of Health insisted that "the majority" of Category A calls would be answered by a fully-equipped ambulance.

A spokesman said: "In instances where the initial response is from a guy on a bike, these respondents will be fully equipped to stabilise a patient and apply first aid."

But Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Minister, said: "Response to a life-threatening call must be by a fully-trained and fully-equipped professional - not someone on a motorbike - so they can stabilise the patient in the shortest possible time. We should be looking to maintain the response time, not dilute it."

And Michael Summers, chairman of the Parents Association, said: "The lay first-aider is not fully qualified to deal with the emergencies they may find. The fact that they are then the cause of further delay is disturbing.

"Equally disturbing is the 27-minute maximum response time. Heart attack patients need to have treatment provided to them in an ambulance with utmost speed.

"The longer it takes, the greater the chance they will not survive. Cutting corners does not work."

The changes follow a comprehensive review of the ambulance service by Peter Bradley, the national ambulance advisor.



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