In a presentation to Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, NEAS bosses revealed the service had the best average response times to category one (life threatening) incidents in the country.
But one councillor was concerned the figures did not tell the whole story, arguing that response times in rural areas were likely to be higher.
NEAS’s data only broke the figures down to a local authority level, giving separate figures for Northumberland and North Tyneside.
The trust’s assistant director of communications, Mark Cotton, said NEAS had seen an increase in both 111 and 999 calls during the pandemic, and staff sickness had impacted services.
However, despite the challenges NEAS was still the “best performing ambulance service in the country for category one calls” and “one of the best performing for category one response times in the 90th percentile, under 15 minutes,” beaten only by the London Ambulance Service.
NEAS was also the best performing service in the country for its response to incidents where a patient is in a serious condition. However, no ambulance service in the country achieved the NHS target of a 40-minute average response.
Coun Georgina Hill, (Berwick East) said NEAS should provide members with more detailed information.
She said: “I would be interested in response times for Berwick. I know that in the next few weeks or months somebody will say to me there was an incident and somebody had to wait an hour for an ambulance.
“I’m concerned that the areas that are more remote are not served as well because the ambulances are called to the higher population areas.”
Responding, Mr Cotton said: “I understand the point that isolated rural areas will, on the whole, have a slower response time than those in urban areas, but as we pointed out, it is a faster response time than any other service.
“The distance to travel may be further, but there is less likelihood of that ambulance being diverted to a more urgent call.”
Mr Cotton added that NEAS did not have enough staff to produce the data at a more local level.