A warning has come this week from the National Audit office saying that ambulance crews in England are finding it “increasingly difficult to cope.”
The review showed that ambulances are being delayed outside A and E units as hospital staff are too busy to take on patients being brought in. It also highlighted that only one of the thirteen services in England are meeting their key target which is to reach the most life threatening cases in 8 minutes. Is it time for the ambulance service in England to downgrade some urgent calls to not needing an 8 minute response or will this put lives at risk?

The Welsh ambulance service made the decision to narrow its life threatening definitions in 2015 to try to help improve their success rates at meeting the 8 minute target.
In Wales the life threatening definition now includes only:
Cases where imminent death is possible such as cardiac arrest, serious road accidents or where a patient is not breathing
Emergencies involving vulnerable patients such as pregnant women and children.

This controversial decision has led to a 90% reduction in the number of calls needing an 8 minute response and has helped the Welsh ambulance to improve its targets from less than 50% to close to 80%. The effect on patients in Wales has been closely monitored and this decision is not deemed to have had a negative effect.

Do the statistics speak for themselves? One thing’s for sure if the demand on the service continues to rise at the rate of 30% every 4 years while the ambulance service budget only rises by 16% these problems are going to continue.

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