In an emergency, our ambulance service is at the front line. Every day paramedics save the lives of people involved in accidents, having heart attacks or suffering strokes.
I know how important speed is when a life is in danger. For every minute longer that it takes to get treatment, the chances of survival falls.
It is very concerning that across the country ambulance response times are getting worse. There are many factors contributing to this: funding of the ambulance service is not keeping up with demand which has been growing at 5% a year; the bottlenecks in our A+Es because of lack of beds creates a back pressure on ambulances which have to wait longer to hand over their patients and therefore take longer to get to the next call; and there is a shortfall of paramedics, leading many services to go as far afield as Australia in an attempt to recruit. Paramedic training places were cut in recent years.
The impact on response times has been dramatic and there are no signs it’s going to improve.
If you have a stroke, for example, it’s a code Red 2 emergency. The target to reach the patient is 8 minutes. But for the past year that target has only been hit around 60% of the time.
Jeremy Hunt talks about “efficiency savings” and targets. But behind the stats are real people and potential lives lost.
If you’re reading this in Haslemere or the south of Waverley then there is a new concern. The plans to close the specialist stroke unit at Royal Surrey County Hospital mean that if you suffer a stroke you will be taken to Frimley Park Hospital or St Peter’s in Chertsey. They are good hospitals, but speed is of the essence when it comes to stroke treatment and journeys could take significantly longer. Slow ambulance response times are one thing; gridlocked roads at peak times are another.
Remember, every minute counts. Even Robert Knowles, the Conservative former Waverley Borough Council leader has said that “the wait could be fatal”.
Our ambulance service, South East Coast Ambulance, is in special measures, partly due to poor response times. It’s suffering the same issues that have affected ambulance services around the country for many years: lack of funding and lack of staff.
If you had a stroke, or someone you love has an accident and their life is in danger you’d be counting the minutes. Jeremy Hunt is failing the NHS. He’s failing the dedicated staff who work in it. And he’s failing people like you and me. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We must demand that our ambulance service is properly funded so once again it can be the great service that we depend on if we have an emergency.
Vote for Dr Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party.
The candidate selected by Lib Dem, Labour and Green party members in South West Surrey to kick out Jeremy Hunt.
And if you want to help me protect your NHS from Jeremy Hunt, please contact us here. I’d be delighted to welcome you on board.