A NORTH-EAST ambulance manager has admitted the cash-strapped service cannot reach emergencies in time, ministers were warned yesterday (Wednesday, May 14).
Iain Wright, the Hartlepool MP, staged a Commons debate to raise the alarm over patients in desperate need waiting more than two hours to be taken to hospital.
The Labour MP said he had been told of about six cases in his constituency where people had waited a dangerously long time for an ambulance.
In particular, he raised the case of William Gouldburn, a retired teacher who died after a fall in his bathroom, after waiting about two hours for an ambulance.
Last month, a coroner said the 73-year-old’s life might have been saved had an ambulance arrived sooner, before he went into cardiac arrest.
Mr Wright said: “Mr Gouldburn’s family, naturally frantic about his condition, placed a total of seven calls about him over this period.
“The manager was asked by the coroner: ‘Is what I’m hearing you don’t have resources to meet demand?’
“The ambulance service manager stated: ‘Yes, that’s correct. It is a national problem’.”
The Hartlepool also alerted ministers to the case of a constituent from the Headland area, whose father has kidney failure – yet an ambulance did not arrive for two hours ten minutes.
The constituent had said: “I stressed the fact that dad had kidney failure, which results in potassium build up, which results in a heart attack.” The man survived.
Mr Wright said the North East Ambulance Service’s funding had been cut by about ten per cent, in real terms, over the last two years.
And he said: “Mr Gouldburn’s case was tragic and avoidable, but a further tragedy is the fact that his is not a unique or isolated case.
“Will the minister therefore pledge to provide more resources to ambulance services in Hartlepool, the North and across England to meet rising demand?”
But Jane Ellison, a health minister – while describing Mr Gouldburn’s death as a “tragedy”, for which the ambulance trust was correct to apologise – rejected claims of a “crisis”.
She told MPs: “I don’t recognise that description and I don’t think the service recognises that description of itself.
“Fast response times are being delivered in the vast majority of cases. It exceeds its targets for response times and should be commended.”
Ms Ellison noted that the coroner said Mr Gouldburn’s call had been “correctly categorised as green” – rather than an emergency – which meant an ambulance should have arrived within one hour.
She said more money had been pumped into ambulance services, but added: “Commissioners [in the North-East] do believe more investment is needed.”
But Mr Wright said the minister was “complacent in the extreme”, adding: “When it goes bad, it goes catastrophically bad.”