PARAMEDICS in the Chichester district are responding to the most serious cardiac incidents within the target of eight minutes in only half of cases from February to April this year.
According to a report presented to West Sussex County Council’s health and adult social care select committee, the ambulance service is responding to 50 per cent of calls designated as ‘cardiac life-threatening conditions’ in the target of under eight minutes.
This is the joint lowest figure across West Sussex, along with the Horsham district.
The average response time for the most serious category of call was just over nine minutes. However, in the Horsham district, the average response time was eight minutes and 20 seconds.
Average figures recorded from February to April this year from the Arun district show SECAmb performed above the target level of 73.5 per cent for the most serious cardiac cases.
However, SECAMB’s performance across the Chichester district improved for response to life-threatening conditions – although figures still do not reach the West Sussex target of 76.1 per cent. Secamb’s performance in the Arun district was higher than the target – with figures between February and April over 80 per cent.
Margaret Evans, chairman of the health and adult social care select committee, said the committee had been monitoring the ambulance service performance for some time, with a particular focus on rural areas like Chichester and Horsham.
“We have been very concerned by some of the figures for emergency response times and have been trying to dig into the details to better understand exactly what is happening across West Sussex,” said Cllr Evans.
“At the HASC meeting on June 12, we heard from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) that, while they can meet response targets in urban areas (including Chichester city), it is difficult in the rural areas with a more dispersed population – and where access and roads can be more of a problem.
“However, we were reassured that they are looking to station paramedics in cars or motorbikes out in the community and to recruit more volunteer community first responders in our rural areas.”
She said there might be potential to put more defibrillators out in the community – and the committee would be working with the ambulance service to explore the options.
“While the figures are worrying, it’s important that we work with the ambulance service to try to help them address these issues – but we will still be keeping an eye on their performance and have asked for an update later in the year.
“We also have regular liaison meetings with SECAmb and any concerns, if the figures have altered, can then be brought straight to the committee’s attention.”
South East Coast Ambulance Service
A spokesman for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) said: “SECAmb recognises the importance of response times and exceeded government targets of reaching more than 75 per cent of the most serious and life-threatening calls within eight minutes across its region last year.
“We are commissioned to meet response time targets as a trust and not by individual areas. However, we recognise that variation does exist across our region.
“While every effort is made to meet these targets at all times in all areas, variation can exist for a number of reasons including geographical differences.
“Between February and April of this year, the average response time for our most serious category of call, Red 1, in the Chichester area, was just over nine minutes.
“We are looking at how we can improve this average, but it does indicate that where response targets have been missed, they are not missed by a significant amount.
“It should also be noted that between February and April of this year, there were just 62 of these most serious calls in the Chichester area out of a total of more than 5,000.
“While response times are of course very important, what is also vital is the treatment patients receive once our clinicians arrive at the scene of an emergency.
“We are pleased that the government now places a greater emphasis on patient outcomes as well as response times. This is something we had been calling for a number of years.
“We are very proud of our staff who are working extremely hard to meet year-on-year increases in demand to provide an excellent service to all our patients.”