Young man’s ambulance wait shows NHS in a ‘dire state’, Emma tells Health Secretary

June 2, 2015

130711 - Emma Lerwell Buck MP smallEmma today called on the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to apologise for the underfunding of ambulance services that left a young constituent waiting more than 50 minutes with a broken leg for an ambulance to arrive.

Emma raised the case at Health Questions, explaining how a lack of capacity in the health service over the last five years had left the service in a “dire state”.

Following a wait of nearly an hour for an ambulance, the young man subsequently waited six hours to be assessed, before multiple cancellations meant he waited five days for an operation to be carried out.

Speaking at Health Questions, Emma said:

“When my constituent Malcolm Hodgson’s son-in-law broke his leg in a local park, he waited in agony for 50 minutes for an ambulance, and then waited a further five days for an operation. Can the Secretary of State explain how our ambulance and health services were allowed to fall into such a dire state over the past five years, and will he apologise to that young man for the delay and the pain that he suffered on the right hon. Gentleman’s watch?”

The Health Secretary responded that “I take responsibility for everything that happens on my watch” and admitted that “the ambulance service is under great pressure”. He also said that there were now more paramedics working in the UK, and that the number of highest priority calls – known as Category A Red 1 calls – being answered within the target time of eight minutes had gone up in the last year.

But Mr Hunt’s response did not acknowledge that ambulance services across the country were still missing targets. Nationally, the target for Category A Red 1 calls is for 75% of calls to be answered within eight minutes. But this target has not been met in well over a year, and nearly one in twenty critically ill patients had to wait 20 minutes or more for an ambulance to arrive. For lower priority calls, waits of close to an hour or even longer are not uncommon. In one case, an eighty year-old woman lay on the floor for five hours with a broken back.

The Health Secretary also failed to address the issue of delayed operations. The number of cancelled operations in South Tyneside is now over twice as high as it was five years ago when David Cameron came to power.

Last winter the North East Ambulance Service said that it was moving to the next stage of its Resource Escalation Action Plan in response to growing pressure. They admitted that target times could be breached during this period, and that non-operational staff would be redeployed to the frontline to help fill the capacity gap. Staff training and leave were cancelled, and increasing numbers of private ambulances were used to plug gaps in the system.

Earlier this year an NEAS spokesperson told a public meeting that the service was “underfunded” and “understaffed”.

Speaking after Health Questions, Emma said:

“This story is sadly just one of many cases where people have been left waiting in serious pain for an ambulance for close to an hour or even longer. Ambulance chiefs are turning to emergency measures to keep the service running, but Jeremy Hunt wants to pretend everything is fine.

“This young man’s story exposes the Government’s negligence at every stage: a struggling ambulance service; a packed A&E department; an understaffed hospital that hasn’t got the capacity to carry out an urgent operation. It couldn’t be clearer that the Government’s underfunding has allowed the NHS to reach a crisis point, and the Health Secretary owes an apology not just to my constituent but to the country.”

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