A new investigation has revealed that ambulance services are failing to reach people with life-threatening conditions quickly enough.
Freedom of Information Requests made by the BBC revealed that only one of the UK’s 13 ambulance services; is currently meeting targets for the time taken to reach seriously ill and injured patients. For example those suffering from a cardiac arrest; which is why it is vital that AED (Defibs) are more widely distributed and people trained how to use them.
Critically ill patients should be reached within eight minutes, and the target for handing these over to A&E staff is fifteen minutes, but there are severe delays being experienced in the system.
The data gathered by the BBC showed over 500,000 hours of ambulance crews’ time in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was lost last year while they waited for A&E staff to be available to take their patients.
This represents a 52% rise in just two years and is the equivalent of 286 crews being removed from the system and not answering 999 calls for a whole year or, conversely, would be enough to increase the number of ambulance journeys made by 10%.
Senior paramedics have revealed that it is not uncommon to run out of ambulances at peak times and have blamed rising demand and pressures in the system.
Wales, Scotland and NI
The Welsh ambulance service is currently the only one hitting its response time targets for life-threatening calls, and this has been achieved through reducing the number of cases classed as an emergency from a third to about 5%, enabling it to prioritise the most critical calls.
Scotland recently adopted a similar system to help it cope and it’s believed that services in Northern Ireland – which reported average response times to critical calls were greater than 10 minutes – and across England will soon follow.
In England, two trusts have reported average response times above eight minutes for the second highest priority cases; which include strokes and fits. Data also revealed that patients in the East Midlands; waited 1 minute 42 seconds longer for ambulance crews to arrive last year than they did in 2013-14.
Andrew Newton, chair of the College of Paramedics, explained: “Talking to colleagues around the country, it’s not uncommon to find there are no resources to respond at all at a given time, particularly at nights and weekends. I was talking to one colleague recently who was explaining to me that the nearest ambulances were probably in France.”
Meanwhile, Professor Jonathan Benger, the ambulance lead for NHS said the delays at hospitals were creating “big problems” for ambulance crews.
He did, however, point out that the number of calls being handled had also increased, with 9.4 million emergency calls attended to last year, almost a threefold increase on the number hit a decade ago.
He added: “In the face of rising demand it is not surprising we are having difficulty meeting these targets. It is time to look at the system.”
The increasing waiting times for ambulances – and confirmation that targets for high priority calls are being missed; with critically ill patients waiting longer and longer to receive vital medical aid. This adds more weight to arguments for automated external defibrillators (AED) to be made widely available; in public buildings and across businesses and schools, along with training for individuals in how to use them.
When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, every minute counts. Without defibrillation, their chances of survival are just 5%; but this increases to 70% if defibrillation is administered within 3 minutes of an attack. Chances of survival decrease with every minute that passes afterwards. Patients are waiting more than eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive in England. This means they stand little chance of pulling through if an AED is not available on site.
Teesside First Aid
Teesside First Aid, can provide a life-saving AED unit for your workplace; with online or in-house, group training in how to use it as part of a special package.
With ambulances in some areas taking as long as 10 minutes to reach a cardiac arrest victim; it has never been more important that AEDs are widely available. Equally important is that as many people as possible; are competent and confident to use them to help someone and save a life.