Capacity to handle 999 calls at risk, warns London ambulance service

From The Guardian: Britain’s busiest NHS ambulance service may no longer be able to answer all 999 calls quickly enough because its control rooms are chronically short of call handlers, it has warned.

The London ambulance service (LAS) disclosed this week that its capacity to respond to medical emergencies has been under threat because of a 20% shortfall in its control room staff.

Campaigners for patients have voiced alarm over the findings, saying the risk to the service could lead to people dying of strokes or heart attacks because an ambulance has taken longer than it should to reach them.

The Patients Association said the LAS’s inability to recruit enough staff posed a direct threat to patients.

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Ambulance crisis ‘led to 20 deaths in east of England over Christmas’

From The Guardian: Twenty people died while waiting too long for ambulances in the east of England after the ambulance service there failed to seek outside help during the busy period over Christmas, a Labour MP has said, citing a whistleblower.

Clive Lewis, the MP for Norwich South, used a point of order in the Commons to highlight what he said was an “exceptionally serious issue” with the East of England ambulance service, highlighted by the whistleblower.

The ambulance service became critically overstretched from 19 December, and senior managers wanted to move into what is called Reap 4, the fourth stage of the resource escalation action plan, which involves seeking outside help, Lewis told MPs.

Because neighbouring ambulance services were also overstretched, the assistance would most likely have come from the armed forces, he said.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Essex woman dies after waiting nearly four hours for ambulance

From The Guardian: An 81-year-old woman was found dead in her house after waiting almost four hours for an ambulance.

The pensioner, who lived in Clacton, Essex, called 999 on Tuesday complaining of chest pains, according to the GMB union. East of England (EEAST) ambulance service said a crew arrived three hours and 45 minutes after the initial call.

Ambulance services, like hospitals, have struggled to cope in the midst of the NHS’s winter crisis. Last week, EEAST raised its operational level to the highest possible, an indication that its ability to respond to potentially life-threatening incidents had been affected. In some cases, it used taxis to transport patients to hospital.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]