REVEALED: Ten hour ambulance waits and year-long mental health delays in north Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 08:21 05 December 2018
East of England Ambulance Service
Two people waited 10 hours for ambulances and three others waited a year for mental health support, a survey of north Norfolk's NHS services found.
A survey of NHS users in north Norfolk found a man from Wroxham and a woman from Sheringham, both in their 40s, waited more than 10 hours for emergency ambulances, despite NHS England waiting time targets of 18 minutes for urgent calls.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb described the 10 hour wait as potentially “the difference between life and death”.
Ten emergency callers waited for over five hours and 46 waited for over an hour, the survey found.
The East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) said they were “absolutely committed to every patient receiving the best possible care” and have put “additional fast response” in place.
Three survey respondents had waited a year to be seen by the Wellbeing Service after being referred by their GP for issues including anxiety and depression.
And 34 respondents had waited longer than a month to be seen.
One NHS user said of the Wellbeing Service: “[I’m] still waiting six months later. My GP did not make a referral, advised I needed to make my own referral.”
Another user said appointments “keep getting cancelled”.
The trust said the service operated within national standard waiting times and users are “contacted regularly for review”.
Almost 30pc of respondents who asked for a GP appointment in the last three months waited longer than a fortnight, and the same percentage said they were unsatisfied with their GP surgery.
And almost 50pc of respondents said they weren’t confident in the local NHS to help treat their health or mental health issues.
The north Norfolk clinical commissioning group (NNCCG) said: “NHS England data demonstrates patient satisfaction with GP services is higher than the England average.”
Mr Lamb said: “The feedback was incredibly revealing, and worrying.
“Lots of constituents, even those who had experienced poor service, got in touch to show their support for staff.
“Local GPs and NHS services are the backbone of the North Norfolk community, and my survey showed how appreciated they are by the people they serve.
“The results show staff are working under impossible strain which is having a direct effect on people’s experience and is damaging to their health.
“No one should be left waiting for an ambulance when they need it urgently - that time can be the difference between life and death.”
The survey collected responses from 516 north Norfolk NHS users from September 12 to October 9.
What did the CCG say?
The chair of NHS north Norfolk CCG, Dr Anoop Dhesi said: “We are grateful to Mr Lamb for his support for GP practices in North Norfolk and agree with him when he says local GPs and NHS services are the backbone of the north Norfolk community.
“However NHS England data, collected independently of the NHS in north Norfolk, demonstrates that in fact patient satisfaction with GP services is very high - higher than the England average.”
NHS England data showed an average of 71pc of patients in north Norfolk were satisfied with the general practice appointment times available, in comparison with an average of 66pc nationally.
In north Norfolk, 4,393 questionnaires were sent out, and 2,263 were returned completed; a response rate of 52%.
A spokesperson for NNCCG said: “Practices in north Norfolk continuously strive to find better ways to support their patients.
“They usually offer on the day triaging, so where a patient needs to be seen urgently they will often be offered an appointment that day.
“In addition, practices in North Norfolk are offering an additional 86 hours of appointments per week in evenings and at weekends.
“These are provided at three hubs in Fakenham, North Walsham and Cromer throughout the week from 5.00pm to 8.00pm and at weekends 9.00am to 12.00pm.
“All 19 North Norfolk practices are rated as either Good or Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
“There are also many things people can do to help their GP practice, including: asking your local pharmacist for advice, cancelling unwanted appointments in good time, and signing up online so you can book appointments, order prescriptions and see some of your records.”
What did EEAST say?
Dorothy Hosein, interim chief executive of EEAST, said: “We are absolutely committed to every patient receiving the best possible care.
“Patients are at the heart of our plans and we will do everything we can to keep them safe.
“From April 1 this year, our Norfolk service handled more than 90,000 calls.
“As part of our commitment to meeting targets consistently, we have embarked on a transformation programme in Norfolk.
“This in turn will improve our productivity and will increase the number of vehicles and crews available.
“We have also put in place additional fast response to support the sickest patients.
“We are also working with our hospital partners to reduce the number of hours lost in delays in the handover of patients.
“The welfare of our staff is crucial to delivering a good service.
“We have put in place a range of initiatives to support their wellbeing, including providing free flu vaccines, drop-in wellbeing clinics, ensuring staff take their breaks and providing support following a difficult job.”
What did NSFT say?
Stuart Richardson, chief operating officer at NSFT, said: “The Wellbeing Service in north Norfolk is working within nationally accepted standards for waiting times.
“The Wellbeing Service provides a range of psychological interventions and there are occasions when an individual may require a specific intervention at a specific time and location that will result in them waiting longer than we would like.
“However, while waiting for any intervention within our service we ensure that people are contacted regularly for review.
“We urge anyone who is struggling with their mental health to get in touch and not to be put off seeking help. There are areas, highlighted by the recent CQC report, where we need to improve and we are working on improving those areas.
“But it is important to recognise that the CQC was also full of praise for our staff as good and caring people. We are committed to providing the best possible care to the communities we serve and people can be assured that they will get good, caring support from our staff.
“Every NHS organisation across the country is facing the same difficulties with recruitment and retention, while the rural nature of East Anglia also brings additional challenges.
“We are working hard to make our Trust an attractive place to work by offering opportunities for professional development, such as work-based learning, apprenticeships and degrees and growing our own talent.
“We are committed to ensuring that the services we are commissioned to provide are safe and effective for everyone in Norfolk and Suffolk.
“Our priorities are to resolve ongoing issues around access to services, waiting lists and staffing levels, while also making sure we have the right systems in place to ensure patient safety at all times.”