Ambulance service misses target for life-threatening 999 calls

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Ambulances are failing to get to one in three emergency calls on time in South Yorkshire - sparking fears patients’ lives are being put at risk.

New figures show Yorkshire Ambulance Service has missed its target of answering 75 per cent of life-threatening 999 calls within eight minutes.

In May only 69 per cent of calls were responded to within the target time - with the problem particularly acute in Barnsley, where the figure was as low as 64 per cent.

Kelvin Hurd, a paramedic and official for trade union Unite, said: “We’re failing to get to one in three life-threatening calls, so if you ring an ambulance and your life is in danger there’s a good chance one in three of you won’t get it in time.

“To me, I would say if your life is in danger eight minutes is reasonable.”

Ian Brandwood, executive director of HR at the ambulance trust, said this year had been ‘challenging’ so far.

“This has been compounded by a significant increase of up to 19 per cent in demand to respond to the most seriously ill and injured patients – an increase which is also being seen across the country,” he said.

“Reaching patients as quickly as possible and providing high quality clinical care remains our priority and we would like to reassure the public that we are working hard to address

the challenges we are currently facing and make improvements to our response times. This includes discussions with our staff and Unison representatives.

“Our focus remains on better management of the high demand and configuration of our operational cover. In addition, as part of an on-going programme, we are increasing our A&E

workforce which will see another 90 paramedics and emergency care assistants joining the trust over the next three months.”

Mr Brandwood added: “We continue to urge the public to use our 999 service responsibly and ask that they consider alternative healthcare services, such as their GP, a pharmacist or the NHS 111 urgent care service for less urgent illnesses and injuries.”

Unite is currently embroiled in a long-running dispute with the trust over changes to conditions including shift patterns, meal breaks and the level of training given to emergency care assistants, who accompany paramedics on ambulances.

Meanwhile members of the Unison union at the trust are also being balloted for industrial action. Leaders accuse trust bosses of failing to stick to a five-year ‘workforce plan’.