Call for Health Secretary to look at Northumberland ambulance fears

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

The Conservative parliamentary candidate for Berwick has called for an urgent meeting with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to discuss the ambulance crisis in north Northumberland.

It follows an ambulance crew taking nearly an hour to reach a four-year-old boy who was injured in a crash in Berwick on Friday – at a time when the town’s ambulance cover is already under scrutiny. Prior to that, serious concerns were sparked by the death of 16-year-old Kyle Lowes in a road accident when an ambulance took 26 minutes to arrive.

Last month, Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan met management at the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and discovered that a protocol negotiated with the unions, dating from the Agenda for Change agreement in 2004, states that calls will not be put through to the nearest paramedics, if they are on breaks, even for category A calls, which relate to the most serious, life-threatening emergencies. She has since called for an urgent review of this protocol.

Ms Trevelyan has now also met union leaders and she is working with them to try to build a clear and honest picture of what is going on in rural ambulance provision, locally in the North East and across England.

She said: “I am currently trying to ascertain the facts behind this latest incident and the precise reasons for the delay in reaching this four-year-old boy. This situation is deeply concerning, and I must emphasise that no blame should be attached to the paramedic teams. In this latest case, I am told that a local GP assessed the situation as urgent following initial triaging as non-life-threatening.

“I am continuing to work for an urgent review of the protocols in place and the effectiveness of the triaging computer system which is now used at the 999 headquarters. I have asked Jeremy Hunt to meet me so this situation can be urgently addressed.”

Yesterday, the Gazette reported that chairman of Northumberland’s Health and Wellbeing Board, Scott Dickinson, will speak to NEAS bosses along with a Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group representative and a Northumbria NHS Trust executive director this week.