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Northumberland ambulance responses among fastest in country

North East Ambulance Service
North East Ambulance Service

Response times of community paramedics in Northumberland are among the fastest in the country for 999 emergencies, according to data analysed by a national newspaper.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Times examined response times for NHS ambulance trusts across the country.

In their analysis, postcodes covering the NE49 (Haltwhistle) area averaged an ambulance response in four minutes 29 seconds in 75 per cent of incidents between 2012 and 2015. This was the fastest ambulance response of anywhere in the UK, according to their FOI analysis.

Further north, postcodes covering the NE71 (Wooler) area averaged an ambulance response in four minutes 45 seconds in three-quarters of incidents during the same period, making this area the fourth fastest for a paramedic response in the UK.

A separate analysis of the data by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has shown that the postcodes covering community paramedics in the NE48 (Bellingham) area averaged an ambulance response in nine minutes 50 seconds, while those covering the NE65 (Rothbury) area averaged an ambulance response in 10 minutes.

The worst ambulance response times were mainly in the south, which achieved a response in 29 minutes 46 seconds in 75 per cent of incidents between 2012 and 2015.

Paul Liversidge, chief operating officer for NEAS, said: “The changes we made to our rural ambulance cover in Northumberland almost 10 years ago has clearly had a beneficial impact on our ability to respond to emergencies.

“The community paramedics based in their localities are not only available to treat 999 emergencies in their area, but also support local GPs and district nurses, helping to treat patients at home and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

“At a time when the NHS is under enormous pressure, this service is a good example of collaboration and integration between primary care and urgent and emergency care which appears to benefit not just our patients, but also the wider NHS system.”

However, despite these impressive figures, a number of concerns have been raised over ambulance response times in north Northumberland in recent years.

About a year ago, the issue was highlighted after the eight-minute measure for emergency calls in the Northumberland CCG area fell to 57 per cent in December 2015, down from 75 per cent in May 2015.

In March 2016, Mark Cotton, NEAS assistant director of communications, acknowledged the figure was ‘disappointing’ at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area committee.

“From April last year to the end of February, that eight-minute target figure has gradually declined,” he said. “We are not achieving our performance targets in either Northumberland or across the whole of the service area.”