Ambulance services reviewed by scrutiny committee

Ambulance services in the area need to improve says a Cheshire East Council watchdog committee.

The Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee has called for local and national health organisations to improve ambulance services in the Borough.

The review was in response to reports of poor ambulance response times for emergency calls in Cheshire East. Waiting times for patients in Cheshire East - in rural areas in particular - are much longer than those of patients in urban areas in the North West.

Ambulances should respond to three quarters of the most urgent calls within eight minutes. Performance in Cheshire East falls well short of this.

The public meeting heard statements from senior representatives of local health and care organisations, including North West Ambulance Service, both local clinical commissioning groups, Cheshire East’s hospitals and the Council.

Details of a number of initiatives for improving response times were presented including the 'frequent callers' initiative, where residents identified as making regular calls to the ambulance service are identified and supported in different ways, thereby freeing up ambulance time. In total, the committee issued 20 recommendations to help ensure Cheshire East residents are provided with a safe, effective and high-quality ambulance service.

The committee has urged the Department of Health and NHS England to review the way paramedic emergency services are commissioned and monitored, placing a greater focus on better outcomes for patients and ensuring that access to ambulances is consistent. 

Councillor Paul Bates, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member for health and communities, said: "This comprehensive review has helped to shed light on many of the factors leading to longer ambulance response times in Cheshire East.

“It has also led to the committee making a number of important recommendations across the national and local health and care system.

"I am pleased by the input and active engagement of our local health and care organisations into this review and look forward to their response to the committee’s recommendations."

Councillor Jos Saunders, chair of Cheshire East’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee said: "Paramedics, community first responders and other health and care frontline staff and volunteers are fully committed and provide an excellent and caring service.

“However, it is unacceptable that Cheshire East residents should not have the same access to emergency care outside of hospital as people living in urban areas."

The report has been sent to all relevant organisations, who have been asked to respond to the committee by September. It has also been escalated to the Secretary of State for Health.

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