A Liberal Democrat motion submitted to the county council next week will look once again at worrying ambulance response times across many parts of Gloucestershire.
This follows the latest figures showing the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust’s (SWASFT) continuing failure to meet their 75% target in responding to the most urgent calls within 8 minutes.
The issue was first brought by Cllr Paul Hodgkinson at a council meeting in May 2014 where unanimous cross-party support was given for a motion calling for urgent improvements to ambulance response times in the Cotswolds, Stroud, Tewkesbury and the Forest of Dean.
In spite of the fact that the issue of ambulance performance is being monitored by the Council’s Health and Care Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) improvements have yet to be made.
Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach) who will for a second time be leading the debate said that:
“Our calls for improving ambulance response times made in the council chamber over eighteen months ago appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
“The latest ambulance performance report published last month show simply dreadful figures. I’m extremely concerned about the latest 8 minute response rates which show the target being missed spectacularly in areas like the Cotswolds – in fact the response times have actually got worse from the previous year. In September of this year the 8 minute target for Red1 incidents (immediately life-threatening conditions) was achieved in only 38.46% of cases in the Cotswolds and in the same month this year 47.83% of cases in Stroud. Last September, the 8 minute target for Red1 incidents (immediately life-threatening conditions) was achieved in 53.3% of cases in the Cotswolds and 69.2% in Stroud.
“I’ve said before and will say it again that overall we commend the work of the ambulance service and the many lives that are saved, but a crisis point has now been reached where what we are seeing is SWASFT’s failure to improve.
“I want to see the figures improving significantly. As well as calling for urgent improvements, I will also request that the Council’s Health and Care Scrutiny Committee explores the creation of a county-wide ambulance service rather than a regional one.
“People living in rural areas have for far too long been living with a second rate service in terms of ambulance response times compared to those living in the urban areas of both Cheltenham and Gloucester.”
Cllr Joe Harris (LD, Cirencester Park) who will be supporting the motion also said that:
“I’ve seen first hand the excellent work that our paramedics do across the area in difficult circumstances. The continuing poor performance on response times is really concerning and highlights a bigger problem, it’s a problem that senior decision makers need to get a grip of.
“We continue to see targets being missed in the most life threatening cases and also on ‘green priority’ calls, an example of this could be the elderly lady who has fallen in the street and is having to wait hours for an ambulance in great pain. It isn’t good enough.
“In SWAST’s case bigger certainly hasn’t meant better and their performance in many parts of the County highlights this. I believe that a return to a County Ambulance service will mean better outcomes for Gloucestershire residents through local decision making and scrutiny. I hope the Council votes to take the first step in doing this next week.”