East of England Ambulance Service paramedics urge ministers to change target

Norman Lamb MP


Paramedics in the East of England have called on health ministers to change a government-set target which they said was harming patients.

The East of England Ambulance Service workers – including about a dozen from Norfolk – met health minister Earl Howe and MPs from across the region at Westminster tonight.

They say the ambulance service is currently exploiting a 'loophole' that allows them to send rapid response vehicles to serious incidents to hit a target of arriving at 95pc of A-grade calls within 19 minutes – despite the fact that those vehicles cannot transport many of the patients to hospital.

This evening the paramedics called on the health minister to change the A19 target so that only call-outs answered by an ambulance could meet it.

One Norfolk paramedic said the meeting had been 'positive' and added: 'Today was about us asking for outside help.

'Our managers aren't listening to what we are experiencing.

'We need the department of health to change that target.

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'It's ludicrous that you can claim a transportable target on a vehicle that can't actually transport those patients to hospital.'

The paramedic said there were daily examples of the practice 'causing patient harm' and warned sitting for long periods with sick patients was having a big effect on staff morale.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk and health minister, was among the politicians at the meeting.

He said the paramedics put across a strong case and he would be speaking to Earl Howe about the need for an 'urgent review' of the A19 target.

He added: 'These people are dedicated professionals who care passionately about their service. They find themselves very distressed about what is happening and the potential impact on patients.'

After the meeting, an East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said: 'A19 is a national standard set by the department of health for all ambulance trusts.

'But interim chief executive Andrew Morgan, who was only appointed 10 weeks ago, would be very happy to meet up with representatives from the Change A19 group to discuss their concerns over this.

'The DH guidelines do not preclude using RRVs to transport patients when clinically safe to do so as, aside from a stretcher, they have the same equipment as an ambulance and are staffed by expert clinicians.'

The East of England Ambulance Service is reaching 93pc of A19 incidents in 19 minutes and less than 90pc in Norfolk and Suffolk.

For more information about the Change A19 campaign, visit www.changeA19.org or sign the e-petition at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42759