GMB says patients will die as result of government manipulation of targets

ambulanceUnions have criticised plans to give ambulance dispatchers two extra minutes to decide whether or not to send an ambulance to answer 999 calls.

The government has announced the scheme will be piloted in London and the South West to save wasted journeys, but unions say it is a political gimmick to allow ambulances to meet response targets.

GMB regional officer Tony Hughes said: “These pilots are ridiculous. They will only serve to bring worse outcomes for patients. The run-up to the general election is clearly a factor so that the Tories can show that ambulance services are meeting their targets. This is so far from the truth.

“We will see people die more often that we see at the moment from conditions that can be treated if the right resource is got to them in good time.

“The whole of the A&E structures are at breaking point due to the changes this government has already made. There are a number of issues why there are slow responses in the service such as no beds at hospitals, the new Clinical Commissioning Groups funding fewer opportunities to access other medical assistance, the closing of A&E departments and walk in centres and the new 111 service. All these issues have led to Accident and Emergency Services to be at breaking point.

“In 2011 we warned the government’s scrapping of the category B target for ambulances to arrive at the scene of an incident within 19 minutes of the call being received and replacing it with a set of 11 new clinical quality indicators would open the door to cuts being made and we have now been proven right.”

UNISON national officer Alan Lofthouse said: “The NHS is in its busiest months and it’s crucial that patients’ safety in the two areas piloted is not compromised. In an emergency, every second counts and the response time can often dictate whether patients live or die. We want to see this pilot properly evaluated before it’s rolled out any further.

“A lack of resources mean serious staff shortages and not enough ambulances. And the pressures on the service are so great that many paramedics are now leaving the profession.

“With cuts to social care budgets, closures of local medical centres and the pressures on A&E departments it is no surprise that the demand for emergency services is unprecedented.

“The situation will only improve if the government addresses the root of the problem by funding the NHS properly, investing in better care in the community and rewarding staff with a decent pay rise.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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