Ambulance ‘postcode lottery’ hits rural areas

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AMBULANCE response times are still a postcode lottery, according to figures obtained by MPs.

The figures showing responses times for most Suffolk postcodes reveal a town and country divide still exists, though the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) says it has revamped coverage.

The figures were obtained by Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, and Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney.

Ambulance services are supposed to reach 75 per cent of emergency cases within eight minutes. The figures for the period from December 16 to March 30 show that in the urban postcodes of Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds (IP33) the eight minute target was met in more than 75 per cent of cases in every week, but out of town and the success rate drops.

Even in Stowmarket (IP14) the target was only met in one week, at 84.2 per cent with the next best at 70.59 per cent.

In very rural Lakenheath and Brandon (IP27) the best week was 53.85 per cent of 13 calls.

Dr Poulter said: “It is essential that resources are directed to the frontline so that patients in rural areas can receive the same ambulance service as residents in more urban areas.”

Thetford (IP24) has a high call out rate with an average of 53.7 calls a week compared to Bury’s 31.4 and in the first 11 weeks the target was only met once though it was exceeded in three of the last four weeks.

Thetford MP Elizabeth Truss said: “The service should be consistent across the board whether it is in rural or urban areas. If callouts for the IP24 area are higher than the average, then resources should be allocated accordingly.”

EEAST said it did not know why Thetford had such a high call out rate, though the postcode included villages as well as the town.

A spokeswoman added: “These figures are over the most challenging time of year covering the festive season and bad weather. The figures quoted are for postcode areas rather than only the towns and villages mentioned which include some very isolated locations and this inevitably has an impact. As the data shows there are a number of postcode areas where we’ve exceeded targets, although the trust is focused on quality of service for all.”