Ambulance chiefs are planning to ensure fast response vehicles spend more time in Rutland to help improve the service provided to people living in the county.
In an attempt to allay concerns about response times in the Rutland – which figures show are the worst in the region – a ‘listening event’ was held in Oakham on Friday.
East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) staff updated members of the public on the challenges they face dealing with an ever-increasing number of calls – and explained what action they are taking to make improvements.
As recently reported in the Mercury, ambulance services are supposed to reach at least 75 per cent of ‘Red’ calls (where patients are seriously ill) within eight minutes – but EMAS consistently misses these targets in Rutland.
Mark Gregory, general manager for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, said EMAS faces many challenges in providing a service to almost five million people in an area of 6,425 square miles.
He said: “It’s a huge undertaking to serve a population of that size. We have some very dense urban areas, such as Leicester and Nottingham, and some very rural areas too.
“Last year we took nearly 800,000 calls – that’s one every 43 seconds and it’s a real challenge to keep on top of that.
“For a long time we’ve been arguing that we need more staff.”
Those present at the event, held in Oakham and organised by Healthwatch Rutland, were told Rutland makes up just 0.82 per cent of the land mass of the EMAS area and 2.3 per cent of the population.
Mr Gregory said: “We only get about five ‘Red 1’ calls a month in Rutland, and missing the eight minute target in just one of those calls can have a major impact on our figures.”
Guests were told EMAS is to introduce a new rural deployment model which would see fast response vehicles spend more time in the county.
Paramedics will also work to form stronger links with local GPs and health centres in an attempt to divert patients who could better be treated there, rather than transporting them to hospital in Leicester or Peterborough where crews can get stuck for hours waiting to do handovers.
Mr Gregory said: “Our fast response cars are nimble and good at getting through traffic.
“What we are working towards is getting response car to remain in an area, for example Oakham, and that response car is designated to the Rutland area and ready to respond to calls within minutes.
“These rural paramedics will build relationships with our GP, nursing and social care colleagues to open new pathways for patients.”
EMAS has previously said meeting response times targets is difficult in Rutland because it is a “very rural area with poor road networks”.
Members of the public were told that there is national problem recruiting paramedics and EMAS is considering looking abroad to find staff. It was also said a number of EMAS staff have been poached by a neighbouring service which pays higher salaries.
EMAS locality manager Tim Hargraves updated those present on some new technology which is making life easier for frontline staff – including smartphones loaded with useful tools and information.
Healthwatch Rutland chairman Jennifer Fenelon said: “Although access is an issue, we never hear a word of criticism about the quality of care when ambulance staff get to the patient.”