Concerned Hartlepool resident found out shock ambulance figures after mother’s seven-hour wait

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool

THE figures were revealed by the ambulance trust when a concerned resident started his own campaign after his mother endured a seven-hour wait for an ambulance.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, started lengthy discussions with bosses at the ambulance service after being left angered by the service given to his mother after she fell ill.

His investigation included submitting a Freedom of Information request to 999 chiefs in an attempt to find out the impact the controversial closure of A&E at the University Hospital of Hartlepool in August 2011 has had on residents.

The resident also got involved in correspondence with Simon Featherstone, the former chief executive of NEAS who stood down from his role in the summer.

The resident said: “The people of Hartlepool were told by the hospital trust that they would improve this aspect of care for them by centralising A&E emergency care 14 miles away at North Tees hospital.

“To move an A&E department serving a town of 100,000 people is one thing, but acceptable emergency care is nothing if not given within an acceptable time frame.

“We hear every other week of some poor person left to suffer in pain waiting for an ambulance to arrive to take them the 14 miles to the A&E department at North Tees Hospital. My own mum had to wait seven hours for what should have been a response time of two hours.

“I lodged official complaints and, after two convoluted, investigations by the NEAS, the outcome was they were busy at this time.”

In an e-mail to Mr Featherstone, the resident asked: “What additional resources have been put in place to alleviate the pressures placed on the service due to the closure of the A&E department at Hartlepool?”

In response, Mr Featherstone wrote: “As you surmised, the journey times for those patients who live in Hartlepool and would have gone to the Hartlepool A&E department and now have to go to the North Tees A&E department are longer.

“This was anticipated and since the closure of the Hartlepool A&E department, we have staffed a paramedic ambulance from 10am-6pm seven days a week.

“It is virtually always staffed. In order to fund this additional time the commissioners agreed to add £175,000 to our annual contract from 2012/13 onwards.

“We regularly review the resources devoted to meeting ambulance demand across all areas of the North East and the resources devoted to Hartlepool will be kept under review as the services around us develop.”

Not satisfied with that answer, the complainant then asked how many hours a week the paramedic ambulance would not be staffed.

He added: “I found from the information supplied that this ambulance is actually not available for 47.5 days of the year, this is not seven days a week it is more like six days a week. It also came to light that the additional ambulance is used right across the NEAS geographical area so is not specifically targeted to the population that needs it, namely those of Hartlepool and the surrounding areas.”

He added: “Neither the Hospital Trust, the board of NEAS or the Clinical Commissioning Groups (formerly the PCT) – who agreed to the changes on behalf of their patients – will acknowledge the cause of this dire situation relating to emergency care for the people of Hartlepool and the surrounding areas.”

“It would seem that the people of Hartlepool and the surrounding areas have been left with a system of emergency care which is not fit for purpose.”