North East Ambulance Service counters concern from police forces after officers forced to carry patients to hospital (From The Northern Echo)
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Ambulance service defends itself amid mounting concern
AMBULANCE chiefs have reacted to growing concern from North-East police forces that patrol cars are being used to transport people to hospital for urgent medical attention.
A leaked log of comments from police officers detailed numerous incidents, some in this region, where officers have had to carry patients facing ‘life or death’ situations due to a shortage of ambulances.
However, a North East Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “We had reports last winter from police of delays in ambulance responses due to a number of pressures, including delays in handover of patients at hospital.
“We would never delay sending an ambulance because the police were already attending a patient, but in some circumstances, officers were taking patients to hospital before the target time for an ambulance response had expired.”
She said all 999 calls were assessed on priority and paramedics were dispatched to the most serious cases, known as ‘Red Calls’, first, which require a response within eight minutes.
In 2012, the service reached 76 per cent of these calls within eight minutes and this year the figure is 79 per cent.
For the police's part, Dave Orford, Assistant Chief Constable of Durham Police, said there had been a 20 per cent increase in calls from the ambulance service requesting help in the last five years.
He said: “Officers are reporting this to us from the streets and they recognise in some instances it would better if an ambulance was available.”
Vera Baird and Barry Coppinger, Police and Crime Commissioners for Northumbria and Cleveland, respectively, have echoed the concerns of their Durham counterpart, Ron Hogg who said elsewhere in the country people had died after they were taken to hospital by police instead of in an ambulance.
Ms Baird said: “These situations are often life or death and it's in the tradition of the police service that officers will do everything they can to protect members of the public and step in where necessary.”
Cleveland Police Assistant Chief Constable Sean White said the force had experienced increases in delays in the arrival of ambulances since December last year.
He said: “This is putting our officers in an extremely difficult position and they should be allowed to continue to investigate incidents than attending to patients at the scene.”
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