Home   Kent   News   Article

Ambulance trust agrees rapid response vehicle increase

THE number of one-man vehicles responding to emergency ambulance call outs in Kent is set to rise by 10 per cent in the next 18 months.

The South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAmb) has agreed to put more rapid response vehicles on the roads as part of a national drive to meet new 999 response-time targets.

But move has been criticised by public sector unions as potentially dangerous for patients.

From April 2008, all ambulance trusts will have to meet new government performance targets to respond to three quarters of 999 calls within eight minutes from the moment the call is connected to the control centre.

At present, the clock only starts ticking once the control centre has taken down the caller's name, address and problem.

To meet the new target, SECAmb has submitted plans to the Department of Health, to make more use of rapid response vehicles - usually an equipped estate car or 4x4 manned by a single paramedic - for 999 call out.

In Kent, the percentage ratio of ambulances to rapid response units is set to change from 80/20 to 70/30 in the next 12 to 18 months, but the trust insisted the move would increase, not decrease, the number of vehicles or staff available.

A spokesman for the trust, which covers Kent, East and West Sussex, Brighton & Hove, and Surrey, said: "We believe reaching patients as quickly as possible so treatment can commence is vital.

"Increasingly the ambulance service is seeing a rise in the number of patients with minor symptoms related to long term conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

"For these patients what is important is being treated at home or in the community – the last thing they need, or often want, is to be taken to A&E."

The Government claims the move will mean patients are treated faster and double-manned ambulances will be freed up for more serious call outs rather than non-life threatening problems, but unions across the country worry it will pose greater risks to people in need.

UNISON National Ambulance Officer Sam Oestreicher said: "This is a fundamental shift in the way the ambulance service responds to emergency calls (and) it will affect the way a patient is treated.

"We are worried that it could become too easy to send a single responder when what is need is a fully equipped ambulance to treat the patient at the scene and then get them safely to A&E.

"It must be rigorously controlled to make sure that there is no detriment to patients."

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More