Ambulance response times fastest for serious incidents

Ambulance response times discussed.
Ambulance response times discussed.

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is the fastest in the country for getting to the most serious incidents, but is missing the targets for less urgent cases.

The measures of ambulance response times have been updated nationally, aiming to ensure the most appropriate response for a patient rather than the fastest one.

Providing an update at an Ashington and Blyth Local Area Council meeting, Mark Cotton, assistant director of communications and engagement, explained that NEAS was the penultimate service in England to change to the new standards – on October 30 last year.

Call-outs are now ranked from category one to four, with either one or two targets for each – an average response time and a time within which 90 per cent of patients are reached.

For category one, life-threatening incidents, the average target is seven minutes and the 90 per cent target is 15 minutes, and NEAS is the best-performing service in the country for both measures.

However, for category two, emergency calls, with 18-minute and 40-minute targets, NEAS has not met the standards so far, although its performance is better than the national average.

Mr Cotton explained that the biggest challenge remains category three, urgent calls (90 per cent of patients reached within two hours), while category four, less urgent calls (90 per cent of patients reached within three hours) is improving month on month.

This wider regional pattern has largely been reflected in Northumberland where the category one targets have been hit in every month but January, and for category four, in every month but December.

However, in categories two and three, the standards have been met in only one month.

Mr Cotton said: “It’s a mixed picture, but the positive is that for the most life-threatening patients, we are getting there quickly.”

NEAS operates from 14 stations in Northumberland with 14 double-crew ambulances, two rapid-response vehicles, four community paramedics and four urgent-care ambulances.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service