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Ambulance response times below the national target for serious calls to the Isle of Sheppey

An increase in calls could be leading to delays in ambulances getting to patients in need of urgent help on Sheppey.

Data from South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) shows national targets to the most serious calls are being missed.

Ambulance response time on the Isle of Sheppey have been below the national target in previous years. Stock picture
Ambulance response time on the Isle of Sheppey have been below the national target in previous years. Stock picture

Figures coincide with a surge in demand, with 13,992 call-outs to the Island in 2018/19 - 2,853 more than five years earlier.

In 2017 SECAmb adopted the Ambulance Response Programme which sees most calls allocated into four categories.

The standard makes sure services aim to answer the most life-threatening calls, such as serious allergic reactions and cardiac arrest, known as category one, in an average of seven minutes.

Figures from a Freedom of Information request reveal the average time for a category one response in 2018/19 was 10 minutes and 41 seconds.

Although below the national standard, it is an improvement on the 2017/18 average of 11 minutes and 17 seconds.

Ambulance response times for calls to the Isle of Sheppey. Image: Editorial Graphics (21041453)
Ambulance response times for calls to the Isle of Sheppey. Image: Editorial Graphics (21041453)

But it took crews an average of 30 minutes and 29 seconds to get to category two emergency calls which include stroke, serious burns and epilepsy. The target is 18 minutes.

In 2017/18, crews responded to category two calls in an average of 27 minutes and 12 seconds.

Patients for a category three call, including in the late stages of labour and diabetes-related illnesses, were seen to in an average of 1 hour 56 minutes in 2017/18 and 2 hours 25 minutes in 2018/19.

Category four calls, where a less urgent response is needed for complaints such as diarrhoea, vomiting and urine infections resulted in average response times of 2 hours 43 minutes in 2017/18 and 2 hours 25 minutes in 2018/19.

A SECAmb spokesman said: “The trust is working hard to address performance issues.

'The trust is working hard to address performance issues' - SECAmb spokesman

“We are pleased that efforts to address our response to our most life-threatening emergencies on the Island are having a positive impact and that we are reducing the time it is taking to get to these patients.

“This is despite the fact we have seen more calls compared to 2017/18.

“While we recognise that there is still more work to be done to address performance, particularly in response to category two emergencies, we are investing significantly in our workforce and our fleet to ensure we have the resources to respond swiftly to all our patients.”

The service has taken on another 60 staff since April and there are now five ambulances starting their shift on Sheppey at peak times, rather than two.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it expects more than a million patients to experience waits of more than four hours.

'There is still more work to be done to address performance' - SECAmb spokesman

A report published by the group last week said the NHS was on track to have its worst-ever winter and is leading a call to get the next government to prioritise the NHS.

A woman in her 70s was left lying on the floor for more than an hour as she waited for paramedics after she slipped and fell.

Maureen Green collapsed in her garden in Granville Road, Sheerness, as she went to hang out washing.

Her son, Paul, rushed to his mother’s house from Aylesford after receiving a call from her lifeline service.

Although she subsequently did not need to be taken to hospital, she had to wait about an hour and a half for paramedics to reach her.

Maureen Green
Maureen Green

Mr Green said: “My mum was told she would have to wait up to two hours for an ambulance.

“When I got there, it looked like a murder scene. I phoned the ambulance service again to see how long they’d be.

“She had smashed her face open so I knew I was going to be walking into quite a lot of blood because my mum is on blood thinners.

“I’m a bit peeved that they left a woman, almost in her 80s, on the ground for that amount of time.

“I ended up lifting her and taking her inside, out of the cold and wet, with the help of my nephew.”

A South East Coast Ambulance Service spokesman said: "We take any concerns raised seriously and we are sorry Mr Green is unhappy with the service his mother received.

"We prioritise our response to our most serious and life-threatening calls and this call was categorised as a category 3 call, which we aim to respond to within two hours.

"We would invite Mr Green or his mother to contact us directly so we can look into their concerns in more detail."

Read more: All the latest news from the Isle of Sheppey


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