Patients ‘are dying’ because ambulance crews are in ‘crisis’
And amid suggestions that the service is at breaking point because of underfunding, a union leader has blamed “a national crisis”, caused by “the relentless pressures of the job”.
Alarming figures show that the number of times serious incidents were reported between April last year and March this year rocketed by 20 per cent in English ambulance trusts.
The East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), which covers Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, is the third worst performing trust, with 58 serious incidents reported - a tally higher only in the East Of England and London.
More than half of the country’s total (232) of serious incidents were complaints about delays in answering 999 calls and delivering patients to hospital.
The figures were obtained by Norman Lamb, the former Liberal Democrat health minister, who warned: “Patients are becoming less safe. A senior ambulance leader told me recently that people are dying through delays.
“The ambulance service is at breaking point due to chronic underfunding. Behind these figures is a person in need of emergency medical assistance. But they are being failed because of the government’s reckless refusal to give the NHS the funding it needs to cope with rising demand.”
Many of the staff and paramedics who work for EMAS are members of the public service union, UNISON.
The union’s officer for ambulance staff, Alan Lofthouse, agreed with Mr Lamb and disclosed that many crew members are quitting their jobs or struggling to carry on because of the ever-increasing demands. He said: “There is a national crisis across the ambulance service.
“High staff-turnover, due to the relentless pressures of the job and colleagues not being replaced quickly enough, means crews cannot reach some patients within the national targets.
“The problem is getting worse. The government must come up with more resources so ambulance staff are able to look after those who need them most.”
Asked for its reaction to the statistics, East Midlands Ambulance Service responded with this brief statement from its chief operating officer, Dave Whiting: “We encourage staff to report serious incidents and near misses so that we can look into what happened, learn from the incident, and try to prevent it happening again.”