North East Ambulance Service faced 'unprecedented' number of calls in January

The North East Ambulance Service dealt with a record number of calls in January.
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Bosses at the service said staff had faced “unprecedented” demand earlier this year, with average daily calls already on the increase throughout the year.

Figures from NEAS showed that around 1,150 calls were received each day in the first month of the year.

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Speaking at Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee, assistant director of communications and engagement at NEAS, Mark Cotton, explained that the increase was part of the reason the service was struggling to meet its targets with regards to responses to category two calls.

North East Ambulance Service. (Photo by National World)North East Ambulance Service. (Photo by National World)
North East Ambulance Service. (Photo by National World)

These are emergency calls for patients suffering with conditions such as heart attacks and strokes, and account for around seven in 10 999 calls to the ambulance service.

NEAS has a target to respond to 90% of calls within 40 minutes, and have an average response time of 18 minutes. Mr Cotton said there was an “enormous burden” on ambulance services to respond to achieve standards.

NEAS had an average response time of 33 minutes and a 90th percentile response time of one hour and seven minutes. While the targets had not been achieved, the performance in Northumberland was faster than the average for the whole of the NEAS area.

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Mr Cotton added: “We are a long way off achieving that target. No ambulance service in the country is meeting its category 2 targets.”

A number of actions had been taken to address the issue. This included increasing the number of paramedics and having clinicians evaluate calls to ensure they were in the correct category.

On the other hand, NEAS’s response to category one calls – those for life-threatening injuries and illnesses including people in cardiac arrest – were above target – one of just a “handful” of services to be doing so in the country.

Looking at detailed figures, Cllr Isabel Hunter commented: “I have been on this committee for a long time and we have always brought up response times.

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“It is nice to see the detail and that it is not as bad as some residents make out.”

But Cllr Georgina Hill warned: “If only one person waits an hour and a half and dies, it is really serious – so we don’t want to be complacent.”