Rural response times warning

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A HEALTH watchdog has told East of England Ambulance Service Trust to find ways to improve its rural response times.

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) latest report on the trust (EEAST) finds that it complies in everything it should, but voices concerns about response times in rural areas and turn-around times at certain hospitals.

Ambulance services nationally are set a target, called A8, to respond to a 999 call within eight minutes 75 per cent of the time.

The CQC report says: “Although the trust is meeting its A8 standard overall, there was a significant variation in terms of geographical performance.

“Whilst nine of the trust’s 13 areas had response times that were above the standard, four were below.”

Those areas were Suffolk Norfolk, Mid-Essex and Cambridgeshire.

It also said that EEAST had one of the highest hours lost due to delays at hospitals in England and particularly criticised Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for keeping ambulances and patients waiting.

The CQC said EEAST was affected by things outside its control, including rural roads and that it had taken ‘satisfactory measures’ on things within its control. But it concluded: “In order to maintain compliance the trust must continue to seek ways of addressing the challenges it faces in responding quickly in very rural areas and on improving turn around times at the hospitals in its region.”

An EEAST spokesman said: “The CQC clearly recognises that we are working very hard on all those within our control.

“The trust is commissioned to meet targets on a region-wide basis to take into account the difficulties posed by rural road networks, something which is fully acknowledged in the report along with all the hard work that has been going on to meet these challenges.”