Village News

Christmas Lights

190705 | Cornwall faces a 'postcode lottery' for ambulance waits


Cornwall faces a 'postcode lottery' for ambulance waits

Published by Emma Carton at 7:26am 5th July 2019. (Updated at 9:04am 5th July 2019)

By Local Democracy Reporter, Richard Whitehouse

People in some parts of Cornwall have been revealed to have to wait, on average, three times longer than others for an emergency ambulance.

Figures released by the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) show the postcode lottery when dialling 999 for an ambulance.

The information was revealed in a report to Cornwall Council's health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee after councillors requested more details about abulance response times due to a number of concerns being raised about delays.

Details were provided for the response times for ambulances responding to category one calls - which are for “immediate response to a life-threatening condition, such as cardiac or respiratory arrest”.

Scroll down to check the quickest and slowest emergency response times for Cornwall, by postcode

What do the figures show?

A report has revealed that patients in some parts of Cornwall are waiting three times longer for an emergency ambulance

The target response time for these calls is an average of seven minutes but the new figures show that the averages in Cornwall are variable.

The quickest response time in Cornwall between June 2018 and May 2019 was in the PL31 Bodmin area where there were 209 category one incidents with an average response time of 5 minutes and 15 seconds.

The four other quickest areas were:

TR1 Truro where 303 calls had a 5.18min response time
PL25 St Austell 353 calls, 5.51min
TR15 Redruth 228 calls, 5.57min
PL18 Gunnislake 29 calls, 6.35min

At the other end of the scale the slowest average response time was in TR19 Land’s End with 44 incidents and a time of 15.52mins – more than three times slower than in the quickest area in Bodmin.

The other four areas with the slowest times were:

PL13 Looe/Polperro, 88 calls with average time of 15.35min
PL34 Tintagel, 19 calls, 14.04min
PL28 St Merryn, 35 calls, 13.57min
PL32 Camelford, 43 calls, 13.27min
At the meeting councillors heard that SWASFT conveys 51% of patients to an emergency department and that the ambulance service only admits around 37% of the incidents received to Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske.

What does the report say?

The target response time for 999 calls is an average of seven minutes but the figures show that the averages in Cornwall are variable

A report to the council states: "A key difference being that for the biggest part of Cornwall there is only one acute hospital unlike Bristol where there are three; resulting in increased travelling time, longer incident cycle durations and less available resources.

"Factor in a finite number of resources based on commissioning; without any hospital handover delays, which can significantly reduce ambulance availability further, which generally occur through the period of higher demand in the latter part of the day".

It adds: "SWASFT's aim is to provide an equitable service to all patients but with this finite resource there are pockets of the community where it is difficult to achieve national response targets through distance, road infrastructure and activity.

"This can be further compounded by the quality of the caller's knowledge of their own location, whether that is through tourism or an underlying condition".

Report to Cornwall Council

Councillors heard that a review of rotas in Cornwall in 2017 resulted in work to maximise performance and patient care by matching existing resourcing to demand, this was said to have addressed the imbalance.

The committee was also reminded that Cornwall has received new ambulances and was told that SWASFT continually reviews resource levels.

SWASFT also revealed that it had received additional funding from NHS Kernow which will increase the number of staff in Cornwall which will add just short of an extra 500 hours of ambulance cover in Cornwall per week.

The report adds: "Utilising the demand data we will be building our resourcing over the next two years, although we are looking to achieve maximum gain as quickly as possible; to reduce delays in patients receiving care, the demands on the staff during shifts both locally and in the clinical hub and improve staff work-life balance".

It concludes: "Through additional funding and evidence-based redesign of its resourcing SWASFT is better placed to provide an even better service in the future".

Report to Cornwall Council

The Truro and Bodmin areas had some of the fastest response times, while the Looe and Polperro area had some of the slowest

What are the average response times across Cornwall?

Full list of average response times to Category 1 calls in Cornwall by postcode, from quickest to slowest (June 2018 to May 2019)

Full list of average response times to Category 1 calls in Cornwall by postcode, from quickest to slowest (June 2018 to May 2019)