Calls to address ambulance crisis

Health bosses are being urged to undertake a review of all inter-related services in Berwick in a bid to improve the town’s ambulance cover.

The recommendation, made by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) board, is a response to increasing pressure for action following the death of a 16-year-old boy in a road accident in January.

It brought into focus growing concerns that the town, which has one 24-hour ambulance crew and a second which operates during the day, is under-resourced.

On the night of the tragedy, the crew could not be disturbed when the 999 call came in, meaning a paramedic from Wooler was dispatched. The paramedic arrived 23 minutes after the 999 call and informed the Berwick crew, which attended after 26.

A petition of 4,000 names demanding better ambulance performance in the town was discussed at last week’s NEAS board meeting, where one director said the current performance of the ambulance service in rural areas is the worst it has been since she joined the board in 2007.

Board members agreed to forward the petition to the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (NCCG), but insist that the town’s ambulance service problem cannot be dealt with by a single provider alone.

A NEAS spokesman said: “Our trust board received this petition at its meeting and recommended that we share it with the clinical commissioning group with a recommendation that we work with them and other health providers to find solutions that meet the challenges we face.”

A NCCG spokesperson said: “We’ve been working with the NEAS to look at how response times can be improved.”