Campaign launched in Norfolk town with the longest wait for an ambulance in the country
PUBLISHED: 06:30 15 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:18 15 May 2019
People in an area with the longest ambulance waiting times in the country have launched a campaign to tackle concerns over the "geographical disadvantage".
Residents and councillors are supporting a doctor's campaign to improve emergency ambulance response times in Wells-next-the-Sea and the surrounding villages, after it was revealed critically ill patients in the area faced the longest waits in the UK.
Critically injured people living in Wells waited an average of 21 minutes, compared to the national average for rural areas of just 11.
Dr Victoria Holliday, chairman of Cley parish council and a retired GP, wrote to town and parish councils along the north Norfolk coast seeking support and wrote to North Norfolk clinical commissioning group (NNCCG).
"You may have seen the recent report that Wells has some of the longest emergency response times in the country," she said.
"This is putting our sickest parishioners at a geographical disadvantage and I know is causing concern.
"I wonder if your town or parish council would support Cley in campaigning to improve the emergency response times in our north Norfolk towns and villages."
Dr Holliday said stroke patients, who "need to be in hospital within 60 minutes" were "almost never receiving the same level of care as patients from more urban areas".
She added "We need to put our concerns to NNCCG who are paying and managing the ambulance trust to look after us.
"I think approaching them as a group of town and parish councils will be more effective than alone."
Wells parish council clerk Greg Hewitt said Dr Holliday's letter was discussed at the council's annual meeting on Monday, May 13, and added: "The council has resolved to support [the campaign] and we'll write back to confirm."
Dr Holliday also wrote to parish councils in villages including Salthouse, Blakeney, Morston, and Stiffkey, seeking their support.
Interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST), Dorothy Hosein, said: "We recognise that some parts of the county are more difficult to reach than others.
"We triage all patients in the same way regardless of location and each patient will receive the most appropriate dispatch for their condition. The speed of response will be influenced by factors including handover delays, workload, and time of day.
"We are concerned when any patient does not receive the timely care they need and are always looking to identify improvements in our responses to patients."
What did the ambulance trust say about resources in Wells?
Dorothy Hosein, interim chief executive, said more resources were being provided in the Wells area.
She said: "We continue to identify schemes with technology and resources to improve outcomes for our stroke patients.
"We continue to work with our partners across the health system to ensure those most at risk receive the most appropriate and timely care.
"We also look to utilise the air ambulance where available, and are part of the stroke network where issues, concerns, and improvements are discussed.
"We are providing more resources into areas such as Wells by using our charity partners and community first responders, who are able to provide an immediate response to a life threatening condition.
"This is in addition to increasing staffing numbers across the sector, and more available ambulances and rapid response vehicles."
What did north Norfolk's clinical commissioning group say?
A spokesperson for NHS North Norfolk CCG (NNCCG) said ambulance funding across the east of England had gone up by £20million in 2019-20.
They said: "NNCCG is keen to ensure that everyone living in the CCG area has access to high quality and responsive health and care.
"The CCG is aware that response times are critical for patients particularly with stroke symptoms, and they are always prioritised appropriately."
They added: "Ambulance services have seen an increase in resources in recent years.
"The consortium of 19 clinical commissioners in the East of England agreed a six-year contract with the ambulance service.
"Funding rose from £213.5m in 2017-18 to £225m in 2018-19.
"It is rising again to £245m in 2019-20.
"This is paying for more than 330 new whole-time posts and an extra 160 double staffed ambulances (DSAs) across the East of England."