Seriously –ill patients had to wait at least another 10 minutes for ambulances in the South East because the NHS ambulance trust there was running a pilot project comparing the 111 call system and the 999 system.
Health watchdog Monitor has said that the trusts did not “fully consider patient safety.”
The South East Cost Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, which covers Kent, Surrey, Sussex and North East Hampshire, ran the project for three months from December last year. It meant transferring the calls from the 111 system to the 999 system, giving the trust an extra 10 minutes to respond within Government targets. The transfer was officially made to re-assess the advice given and to check whether an ambulance was actually required.
The calls affected were in the second most serious category, which includes patients who have had strokes but who are still responsive. Under NHS rules, life-threatening calls should receive an ambulance response in eight minutes, but the trust re-assessed some patients, giving itself an extra 10 minutes on top of that eight minutes.
The calls affected were in the second most serious category – Category A Red 2 – which covers conditions like strokes or fits but which are less critical than where people are non-responsive.
Paul Streat, regional director at Monitor, said: “This was poorly-managed and done without the proper authorisation and without enough thought given to how it might affect patients.”
Paul Sutton, Chief Executive of the trust, said: “We have already begun to take steps to address Monitor’s concerns and as part of this process, independent reviews will assess how decisions are made within the trust, governance processes and our approach to patient safety.”
Sian Thompson, solicitor with Medical Accident Group, said: “Ambulance trusts all over the country are under pressure, especially during the winter, but this action could easily have put patients’ lives at risk. Patients are not simply numbers to be juggled to achieve the right results against targets – their needs are paramount, and decisions like this cannot be made arbitrarily.”
If you or a loved one have suffered because of ambulance delays, Medical Accident Group can help. Our experienced and sympathetic team, whose knowledge of clinical negligence and personal injury law is extensive, can support you through the process of making a claim and seeking justice. We can advise on issues from brain injury or birth injury to surgical and medical errors and accidents at work. Call us free on 0800 050 1668.