East Midlands Ambulance Service in Crisis
By Guy Grainger - Gainsborough
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats
The Rasen Mail carried a report on 31 July under the headline 'Ambulance boss welcomes MPs service review' in which the 'boss' Phil Milligan extolled the virtues of his staff and the service they provide - though response times were not mentioned.
On 2nd August Phil Milligan resigned as chief executive of East Midland Ambulance Service (EMAS) - saying that he was now looking forward to spending more time with his family.
EMAS is in crisis. It has been fined £11m for failing to meet response targets three years in a row.
The ambulance crews are highly professional and do their very best - but the system that they have to operate within is not fit for purpose.
Overall rural Lincolnshire has a service that is failing badly.
The EMAS target is a 95% response rate to emergencies (on site within 19 minutes).
EMAS released total emergency response figures covering the whole region by postcode for the period Jan - Jun 2013 to me after I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. The response rate in LN7 was 71.17% (111 incidents) whilst in LN8 it was 70.49% (305 incidents, including 56 in April 2013). These are both about 1% worse than the figures for Jan - Jun 2012.
Out of 156 post codes throughout the whole of the East Midlands which had a minimum of 20 incidents in the Jan -Jun 2013 period LN7 ranked 147th and LN8 ranked 149th.
I understand that the ambulance stationed at Market Rasen is moved to Lincoln (or sometimes Grimsby) at the start of each shift - from where it responds to incidents.
These figures are terrible - but do they tell the full story?
I put in another FOI request in connection with the following statement made to me by EMAS:
'Also, crews operating from Market Rasen have responded to 69 incidents in the vicinity during April 2013 which demonstrates that the local crew do attend local emergencies.
The EMAS response to my second FOI request was that
'We can confirm that all 69 incidents in question were of an emergency nature.'
'The vicinity in this instance means purely the town of Market Rasen itself. These figures did not include any other towns or villages within either the LN7 or LN8 Postcodes.'
So information from EMAS indicates that 69 emergency incidents were responded to in the town of Market Rasen during April 2013 - which is 13 more than the published total for the entire LN8 area. The discrepancy between these figures cannot inspire confidence.
Poor emergency response rates really are a matter of life and death - EMAS is failing local residents.
If EMAS is to continue to be allowed to provide ambulances for rural Lincolnshire, then ambulances need to in the right places to respond to incidents speedily. In the case of LN7 and LN8 - the ambulance stationed at Market Rasen should be on stand by in the Market Rasen area - and not withdrawn to respond from Lincoln or Grimsby.
The residents of Lincolnshire - particularly those living in rural areas - actually depend on local volunteers who are often the first to arrive at life-threatening incidents.
This Rasen Mail article of 14 August 2013 below sheds more light on the extraordinary work done by some 640 LIVES volunteers around Lincolnshire who respond to 20,000 emergencies across Lincolnshire each year.
The EMAS response times published are based on the first attendee - whether an ambulance or a paramedic from LIVES.
If the LIVES responses were stripped out - the EMAS ambulance response rates would be considerably worse.