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Yes, there should be funding to meet the identified need.
Just as there is no national standard for ambulance provision, it is regrettable that there appears to be no single body to which the disparate ambulance services are accountable. Currently, each ambulance service decides many of its own procedures and protocols. That means, for example, that if a patient who needs a tracheotomy keels over on the Hampshire-Wiltshire border, we must hope that the ambulance comes from Wiltshire, because Hampshire ambulance men are not permitted to carry out that procedure. Similarly, there are variations throughout the country in the types of drugs that paramedics are allowed to administer. Surely it is time to introduce a set of national guidelines on all those matters. It appears that there are no mechanisms in place for sharing practice and spreading best practice--something that is done well in other areas of the health service.
The question is how best to achieve that aim. Many of the staff to whom I have spoken believe that the ambulance service should be accountable to the Home Office and should work more closely with the fire service. I am not advocating that that step should be taken here and now, but more accountability should be demanded by the health service. In addition, ambulance men would like their conditions of service to be more closely allied to those of the police and fire services because they feel that they are a Cinderella emergency service--an expression that I have heard repeated many times.
To return to Lockerley, have things got any better during the past year? A letter from Frances Hanks, parish clerk of Lockerley parish council, to the director of operations at Hampshire ambulance service refers to an incident on
"made an emergency call at 8.30 am when she found her husband and thought he was dead. She gave specific instructions" as to how to reach her property, and the ambulance arrived between 9.5 am and 9.10 am--
"definitely over 30 minutes and probably as long as 40 minutes. The ambulance came from Hythe and told her all they were given was a grid reference 'which didn't help at all.'" On
"A GP call was made for an ambulance...The ambulance drove past the property and was found circling Top Green. The ambulance had to be redirected by a lady walking her dog. (Unfortunately the lady-- Mrs. X--
"lost her husband to a heart attack last year, when she had to wait over 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. As you can imagine, this incident caused her further distress)." On
"An emergency call was made at approximately 9.15 am by...the proprietor of Lockerley Stores...The ambulance arrived at 10 am , 45 minutes later." So the situation is not getting any better. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the letter was written on
However, my main concern is that constituents who live in rural areas will always fall within the 25 per cent. of the population who can expect a response time of more than eight minutes. It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that people are not penalised just because they happen to live in a rural area. It is simply not good enough to trot out the tired old argument that they choose to live there knowing the risks. We have a duty of care to everyone and should be providing that care.