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Extending Red 2 Target By 2 Minutes

Friday, January 16, 2015

More Patients Deaths Will Arise In London And South West In Pilots To Extend Red 2 Ambulance Response Times By 2 Minutes

The whole of the Accident and Emergency structures are at breaking point due the changes this government has already made says GMB.

GMB, the union for ambulance staff, responded to reports that Ambulance dispatchers will have two minutes longer to decide whether to send an ambulance to many potentially life-threatening 999 calls under pilot schemes in London and the South West. See notes to editors for copy of story in the Times and for current response targets.

Tony Hughes, GMB regional officer for Ambulance service in London and East of England, said "These pilots in London and the South West are ridiculous. They will only serve to bring worse outcomes for patients. The run up to the general election is clearly a factor so that the Tories can show that Ambulance Services are meeting their targets. This is so far from the truth.

We will see people die more often that we see at the moment from conditions that can be treated if the right resource is got to them in good time.

The whole of the Accident and Emergency structures are at breaking point due the changes this government has already made. There are a number of issues why there are slow responses in the service such as no beds at hospitals, the new Clinical Commissioning Groups funding fewer opportunities to access other medical assistance, the closing of A&E departments and walk in centres and the new 111 service. All these issues have led to Accident and Emergency Services to be at breaking point.

In 2011 GMB warned that the Government’s scrapping of the category B target for ambulances to arrive at the scene of an incident within 19 minutes of the call being received and replacing it with a set of 11 new clinical quality indicators would open the door to cuts being made and we have now been proven right."


Contact: Rehana Azam, GMB National Officer on 07841 181656 or GMB Regional Officers:

Birmingham & West Midands Pauline Hinks on 07809 617 761, London & East of England Tony Hughes on 07738 958 142 or Steve Sweeney on 07703 469403, East Midlands, Les Dobbs on 07966 327 967, North East and Cumbria, Chris Jukes on 07870 176 733, North West, Lisa Ryan 07703 468 968 or Maria Almond 07718 113110, Northern Ireland, Michael Mulholland on 07974 018 413, South East, Nick Day on 07717 510 047, Wales & South West, Paul Gage on 07980 753 117 and Yorkshire, Joan Keane on 07958 156841 or GMB Press Office: 07921 289880 or 07974 251823.

Notes to editors

Copy of report in the Times

Chris Smyth Health Correspondent

Ambulance dispatchers will have two minutes longer to decide whether to send an ambulance to many potentially life-threatening 999 calls under pilot schemes designed to ease pressure on overstretched emergency services.

The plans will be tested on 15 million people, and health chiefs argue that they will “save countless lives” by reducing wasted journeys, so helping ambulances to reach those who really need them more quickly. Long waits for people with broken bones and other non-fatal conditions will also be reduced, they promise.

The changes come as the winter crisis in A&E is easing slightly: many more people stayed away from hospital last week. NHS leaders concede that they are not out of the woods, however, with a cold snap and more flu on the way.

Chest pains are among symptoms for which 999 call handlers will be allowed to ask callers further questions before sending an ambulance in a relaxation of targets for the second-level “red 2” category, in which three million calls a year are placed.

Patients who are not breathing or unconscious are placed in the “red 1” category, for which an ambulance is sent immediately. It must arrive within eight minutes, and this standard will not change.

Currently, if call handlers go on to discover symptoms that could indicate a heart attack or similarly serious problem they must also send an ambulance immediately. Under the new plans, they will have two minutes to explore the symptoms to confirm or rule out serious illness before they must send an emergency vehicle.

Keith Willett, director for acute care at NHS England, said that at least half of ambulances sent to red 2 calls did not need to get there so quickly, and that 20 per cent were turned back en route when 999 operators discovered, for example, that chest pain started several weeks ago.

“It’s not about relaxing standards,” he said. “By acting with slightly less haste on the calls, we believe we can get to more patients with more speed.

“We believe [the changes] will increase the availability of ambulance vehicles and paramedic staff, providing patients with a better service and improving their chances of survival, especially those with the most serious conditions.”

The changes will be piloted for four weeks in London and the southwest to see if they improve patient survival and cut delays for less critical patients.

Elderly patients who have fallen and broken bones have complained of waiting hours for ambulances in recent weeks as vehicles are diverted to more urgent patients. “There are some unacceptably long delays at the moment,” Professor Willett conceded.

Anthony Marsh, chairman of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said: “These changes will ensure that those people with the most serious conditions get the most urgent response, which will protect patients and save lives.”

Professor Willett is not yet pressing ahead with controversial plans to downgrade many red 2 calls, including some strokes, allowing ambulances longer to get there. He believes this will get the right sort of paramedic to patients, but wants time to convince patient groups.

Figures released this morning showed a dip in long waits at A&E last week, although the NHS is still below its target of dealing with 95 per cent of patients within four hours.

Last week 90 per cent were seen in time, up from 87 per cent the week before. That was helped by 17,862 fewer patients arriving at A&E with attendances at their lowest for a year, amid widespread warnings of chaos and pleas by many hospitals to stay away.

Professor Willett said that the week after the Christmas break often held an increase in demand as patients arrived with illness they had been “stoical” about over the festive period.

“Then there is usually a bit of a lull,” he said. “We have seen a slight improvement, but we’ve got a cold snap being forecast, flu is still rising and I don’t think in any way we’re out of this problem.”

2 Call types:

·    Red 1: Respiratory or cardiac arrest - response in eight minutes

·    Red 2: All other life-threatening emergencies, such as stroke and fits - response in eight minutes

·          Other response times are agreed locally


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