AMBULANCE emergency response times in Suffolk and Norfolk failed to hit national targets for a year.
The target is for ambulances to reach 75 per cent of urgent calls within eight minutes. But figures prepared for North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb reveal that between February 2010 and January 2011 the average for Suffolk was 69.51 per cent and for Norfolk was 69.13.
The best achieved in Suffolk was 73.17 per cent in March 2010 while in Norfolk it was 74.29 per cent in April 2010. The figures also show a marked difference in response times between Norfolk and Suffolk and more urban counties like Bedfordshire where the figures only dropped below 80 per cent in December’s snow.
The East of England Ambulance Service Trust’s (EEAST) chief executive Hayden Newton said: “Rural areas present unique challenges in meeting time targets due to the nature of their infrastructure – particularly during the kind of severe weather we saw last winter – along with the fact that demand cannot be predicted with the same kind of accuracy as in urban areas.
“However, while we are commissioned on a region-wide basis to meet national targets, we are committed to improving our performance and the quality of service we provide to every patient.
“In addition to constantly monitoring and reviewing resource allocation to achieve optimum response times we are designing a more tailor made service for patients to ensure they get the care they need, whether that’s at home, in hospital or by directing them to a more appropriate service.
“This will cut down on unnecessary hospital admissions and improve the experience for patients while enabling us to reach high priority emergencies more quickly. “
Mr Lamb, whose constituency response time average was only 52.65 per cent, said: “I accept that it is more challenging in rural areas but these figures are very disturbing. We must demand an improved service in Norfolk.”
The EEAST annual report, published yesterday, shows that, trust wide, for 2010-11 crews reached 74.64 per cent in time, but with dispensation for winter snow this rises to 75.2 per cent.