Our ambulance service needs emergency treatment '“ but will the response be quick enough?
If the ambulance service were a patient, we'd be dialling 999.
Bloodied, battered and bruised, it is in desperate need of emergency help.
The National Audit Office (NAO) report we reveal today suggests the service is in a critical condition.
Demand has never been higher yet the funding needed to ensure efficient operation is failing to keep up.
Only last week we revealed how unions and management were on a collision course over plans to review meal breaks in a move that would potentially save the NHS £700,000.
On the evidence of this report, there are going to be bigger battles ahead.
And it is going to take more than cash to sort out the problems.
It’s hard to find any light in this gloomy report.
While new approaches to call handling, including giving advice over the phone, have helped ease the pressure on crews, stress in other areas is building.
A key area which needs addressing is emergency response times.
The public look to these as key performance indicators. The speed of response to an emergency is, we always presume , linked to survival rates.
But this report suggests that the eight-minute response time is of no benefit to the majority of patients.
The NAO report goes as far as to say that the focus on response times has led to a range of behaviours that actually undermine efficiency. That finding is a major concern.
Not only are our ambulance crews failing to hit response times, but the emphasis on doing so is making things worse!
The situation is critical ... and the patient requires treatment as a matter of urgency. Question is: How quickly, if at all, will the powers-that-be respond?