Ambulance bosses deny Hartlepool A&E closure is to blame for delays

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool

AMBULANCE bosses have denied that the closure of Hartlepool’s A&E department has led to increased delays in their response times.

Latest figures from the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) show it dealt with 36,650 incidents in the Hartlepool and Stockton area in the 12 months up to February.

There are times when there are eight to 10 ambulances parked up outside North Tees Hospital waiting to go in

Coun Rob Cook, Labour

Of 876 ‘Red 1’ incidents – a respiratory or cardiac arrest which requires two resources to be dispatched and respond within eight minutes –the service missed the target time in 253 cases.

‘Red 2’ incidents, which cover all other life-threatening injuries and also require an eight-minute response, accounted for 19,380 cases, and the service missed the target arrival 4,905 times.

At an extraordinary meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council on Monday night, Nicola Thackray, strategic business planning and performance lead for NEAS, was asked by the public if the closure of A&E services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool back in 2011 had contributed to an increase in the number of delayed ambulance responses.

Ms Thackray told the meeting that she would examine figures to see if the closure had impacted on ambulance responses.

But today a spokesman for the NEAS said it would be “wholly inaccurate” to say the two were linked.

The spokesman said: “Following the closure in 2011 and following extensive discussions we put in place eight hours of extra double crew vehicle cover each day, seven days a week, to reduce the effects of the change in patient destination.

“That cover is still in place today.

“Nationally, demand on all UK ambulance services has risen dramatically over the last two years, with all areas of the UK reporting an increase in the number of delayed responses.

“It would be wholly inaccurate, as so many other things have changed, to say that any increase in delayed response in the Hartlepool area is down to the closure of the A&E department.”

At the meeting, Labour’s Coun Rob Cook said: “There are times when there are eight to 10 ambulances parked up outside North Tees Hospital waiting to go in.

“If you know ambulances are piling up, why are you sending them to a place where they’ll have to queue?”

Ms Thackray said: “We have procedures to send ambulances where there is room.”

Ms Thackray also said that the ambulance service had performed better with ‘non-conveyance’ to hospitals.

She said that its ‘hear and treat’ rate, done over the phone, was up by 48 per cent, and that the ‘see and treat’ rate, done by paramedics on scene, was up by 2.99 per cent.