Hartlepool and Easington MPs grill ambulance chiefs on 999 concerns

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THE area’s MPs have met face to face with ambulance bosses to spell out their worries about failures in responding to 999 calls.

Hartlepool’s MP Iain Wright and Easington’s Grahame Morris highlighted a series of recent cases of patients from Hartlepool and East Durham waiting hours for ambulances during talks with the North East Ambulance Service’s chief executive Simon Featherstone and chairman Ashley Winter.

They included the case of William Gouldburn, 73, from Hartlepool, who died after lying on his bathroom floor for two hours after he collapsed at home.

An inquest ruled his life may have been saved if the ambulance service was not under so much pressure that there was not enough vehicles on the road that day.

Mr Morris, who also raised several cases from his own constituency, said: “It was a useful meeting. We had a frank exchange.

“The chief executive and chairman of the ambulance service accepted there was something where there were undue waits.

“They pointed out that they were the best performing trust overall in the whole country in terms of response times.

“They did accept there was enormous pressure on staff and crews to deliver response times.

“There are a number of issues that we are going to take up on an on-going basis.”

The MPs also queried the ambulance service’s colour-coded system to decide how urgent a case is and whether the ambulance should reach them in under eight minutes or 30 minutes.

“If someone has collapsed or has a broken bone there doesn’t seem to be any doubt in my mind it should be a blue light and an ambulance should be dispatched immediately.

“The trust feels the colour-coded response system works in the majority of cases but there are clearly an increasing number of examples where it isn’t working.”

The trust said it would report back to the MPs with detailed responses about the cases they had raised.

The MPs also heard how the commissioning of services wit the trust on short one-year rolling contracts was making it difficult for the ambulance service to recruit and train staff.

The managers agreed to meet with other northern MPs in London who attended a recent debate in Parliament.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “We are happy with how the talks went with Grahame and Iain, and I think all parties would describe them as constructive and informative.

“We suggested meeting all the northern MPs at Westminster to explore the current situation, and look forward to resuming our discussions soon.”