A SERVICE IN CRISIS: MP demands shake-up of ambulance provision in Hartlepool

Iain Wright
Iain Wright

HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has demanded a Government shake-up of the ambulance service he declared was “in crisis”.

Mr Wright’s SOS in Whitehall came after the Mail reported on a catalogue of cases of patients left in agony while waiting hours for an ambulance to reach them, while in one case an inquest heard a 999 delay played a key role in pensioner William Gouldburn dying in his home after a fall.

The Public Health Minister Jane Ellison

The Public Health Minister Jane Ellison

Simon Featherstone, chief executive of the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), told the Mail earlier this week that the waiting times were not due to a lack of resources.

But during an adjournment debate in Westminster Hall yesterday, Mr Wright asked Public Health Minister Jane Ellison to pledge improvements to NEAS, including:

1 provide more resources for Hartlepool, the North East and England to meet rising demand;

1 to review the questions asked by 999 call takers in assessing a patient’s condition,

1 ensure better hand-over times for ambulances, especially those having to travel further afield because local A&Es have closed.

Mr Gouldburn died in April last year after a fall on his bathroom floor, with a wait of more than two hours between a 999 call and an ambulance getting to him.

Last month, 66-year-old retired bus driver Stan Kelly had to wait almost four hours after taking ill at home, while Sunday league footballers Paul Dobbings and Geoff Pearson both had lengthy waits of more than an hour and rugby player Luke Leyland lay with a dislocated neck for two hours before an ambulance reached him in Peterlee.

During the debate, Mr Wright said Mr Gouldburn’s case was “tragic” and “avoidable” - but sadly not unique.

He also told politicians about a constituent from the Headland whose father, who suffers from kidney failure, almost died after a two hours and 10 minutes wait for an ambulance.

And Easington MP Grahame Morris added that there had been a case in his constituency of a woman who waited two-and-a-half hours for an ambulance but died the following day, as well as a man who waited two hours in the rain after a football injury.

Mr Wright added that the use of private ambulances is “taking resources away from having a sustainable public service”.

“The response times for most life-threatening cases is getting worse,” he added.

He asked Ms Ellison to commit to “ambulance provision which meets demand, is professional and the best in the world”.

But Ms Ellison said although every patient deserves first class care, “there will always be incidents where unfortunate timing leads to a person being assessed in non life-threatening situations calling 999 at the same time”.

North Durham MP Pat Glass had heckled Ms Ellison, saying the service was “in crisis”, a view shared by Mr Wright.

“A service in crisis? I don’t recognise that description, I don’t think the service recognises that description itself,” said Ms Ellison.

She said there had been an increase in demand on the ambulance service and admitted Mr Gouldburn’s wait was “unacceptable” but added his case was correctly assessed by call-takers.

After the hearing, Mr Wright told the Mail Ms Ellison’s response was “complacent waffle”.

“It was a case of ‘crisis, what crisis?’,” he said.

“They are hitting targets so they are saying there’s nothing wrong.”