‘Ambulance improvements could be delayed by up to a year’ - EMAS

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Improvements to our ambulance service’s response times could be delayed by up to a year because of a review of the way the service consulted over controversial changes, according to East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Yesterday it was announced that health minister Jeremy Hunt had referred the concerns of Lincolnshire’s Health Scrutiny Committee to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) for initial review.

These concerns come in the wake of EMAS’ ‘Being the Best’ proposals which at one point included the closure of ambulance stations including Louth, in favour of 13 ‘superhubs’.

After consulting with the public these plans were changed to include 17 ambulance stations, including Louth, alongside 11 hubs and 108 community stations.

The scrutiny committee say that the second round of proposed changes weren’t consulted upon widely enough before they were passed in March.

But EMAS say such changes, which they claim were already improving response times, will be stalled by up to 12 months while the initial review takes place.

“The East Midlands now has improved performance because of the reformed service – reforms that other county councils were supportive of,” said communications officer Mel Wright.

“By stalling the plans the people of Lincolnshire could miss out for up to a year.

“We have been asked to provide information by June 28 to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) who are making an initial review of the referral.

“They will then submit a report and recommendations to the Secretary of State.”

Last month it was revealed that EMAS missed the target of ambulances arriving at 95 per cent of all life-threatening emergencies within 19 minutes was missed this target by over three per cent, leading to a £3.5 million fine.

It met the second target set by the NHS – to respond to 75 per cent of callers reporting a life-threatening emergency within eight minutes

But, it is the third-year in a row the service has been fined.

Coun Christine Talbot, chairman of the Health Scrutiny Committee for Lincolnshire, said: “The committee have had concerns over the performance of EMAS for a long time, and this referral was specifically made as we didn’t feel they had carried out adequate consultation on their ‘Being the Best’ proposals.”

“EMAS have been fined for the third year running for failing to meet response times and we have no confidence that closing ambulance stations will improve this situation in Lincolnshire.”

There are two possible outcomes from an IRP initial assessment - either a recommendation that a full review is undertaken, or a recommendation that a full review is not needed but should be resolved locally.