Significant work is needed to improve ambulance response times for stroke victims in north Northumberland.
The admission was made by North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) bosses at a recent Berwick Town Council meeting.
Targets introduced by NHS England last summer expect that, by 2022, nine out of 10 stroke patients should receive appropriate management within 180 minutes of making a 999 call. That currently happens for less than 75 per cent of stroke patients.
“There’s a significant amount of work to do on stroke victim response times,” said Mark Cotton, of the NEAS.
Statistics showed that response times to emergency calls were better in the TD15 area than the average for Northumberland. But there has been a general drop over the past year as demand has increased.
NHS England also expects that 90 per cent of eligible heart-attack patients will receive definitive treatment within 150 minutes by 2022.
The difficulty in meeting these standards, given that the Northumbria specialist emergency care hospital is located 60 miles away in Cramlington, was raised by town councillors and members of the public.
“We are very isolated here,” said Coun Karin Graham. “It can take one hour and 20 minutes at least to get there.”
Concern about long ambulance turnaround times was also raised but NEAS and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust are working to address this by creating more bays.
Mr Cotton admitted that having more services available locally would help, enabling NEAS to take more patients to Berwick or Alnwick for lower need cases. The specialist centre is further away but it is still by far the best option for patients with life-threatening conditions, he added.
New response standards were introduced in July and NEAS is expecting to receive a report on its performance soon.