Concerns about ambulance response times in Rutland have prompted a public meeting at which officials will explain actions they are taking to address the problem.
The ‘listening event’, hosted by Healthwatch Rutland, will also give members of the public the opportunity to put questions directly to East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) staff.
Figures shared by Healthwatch Rutland show response times in the county are the worst in the region.
The Department of Health requires ambulance services to reach 75 per cent of Red 1 calls (where patients are not breathing or do not have a pulse) and Red 2 calls (still serious, but less immediately time critical, such as such as strokes or heart attacks) within eight minutes of the call.
But figures show EMAS consistently misses these targets in Rutland. In March, the service attended just 28.57 per cent of Red 1 calls and 20.77 per cent of Red 2 calls in the county within eight minutes.
In April, the figures were 60 per cent for Red 1 and 32.74 per cent for Red 2. In May it was 66.67 per cent for Red 1 and 37.70 per cent for Red 2.
Healthwatch Rutland acts as the voice of the people on all aspects of health and social care in the county.
General manager Sarah Iveson said: “People in Rutland speak very highly of the service they receive from paramedics, however, they remain concerned about response times.
“We welcome this opportunity to hear from EMAS and for them to hear from the people of Rutland.”
A report published in May by the Care Quality Commission gave EMAS an overall rating of “requires improvement.” It said EMAS was working hard to improve response times for emergency calls across the region “but these were consistently below the national target.”
The report added that employee morale was low and stated there was an unrelenting demand for emergency services combined with a lack of staff and resources.
Rutland County Council’s portfolio holder for health Councillor Richard Clifton (Con) welcomed the Healthwatch listening event.
He said: “Health is at the top of everyone’s agenda at the moment and response times are an area of concern. The Health and Wellbeing Committee, which I chair, has taken a close interest and has been looking at how we can help EMAS.”
Coun Clifton said discussions are underway to see if fire crews could act as first responders for some health calls in the county. He also urged members of the public to think carefully before dialling 999 – or if their problem could be dealt with by a GP, walk-in centre or other service.
EMAS said Mark Gregory, general manager for Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire, will be speaking at the listening event supported by senior colleagues. Together they will discuss how they respond to calls and talk to attendees about their views.
In a statement, EMAS said it is challenging to hit performance targets in Rutland because “it is a very rural area with poor road networks meaning travelling at high speed is often not possible”.
The service added that, when compared to urban areas, it receives very few 999 calls in Rutland (six Red 1 emergencies in May) and so can’t justify just placing additional resources in the area.
Mr Gregory said: “We are exploring new ways of working to meet demand in rural communities and, with support from our commissioners, an independent strategic demand, capacity and price review is ongoing to look at different demands in different areas, the level of staff and vehicles needed, along with finance, to respond to those demands. We, and our commissioners, have committed to implement the outcomes of the review.
“We are already making changes to our response model in Rutland and are working towards a rural model that ensures patients receive the right care in the right place. This needs to be community focused and work closely with wider NHS partners such as community nursing teams and primary care.”
l The listening event will take place at the Gover Centre, Voluntary Action Rutland, in Lands End Way, Oakham, on Friday, July 22, between 10am and 1pm. Places must be booked in advance by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01572 720381.