Ambulance Trusts’ Failure to Meet Targets May Increase Risk of Clinical Negligence

Ambulance services across the country have consistently failed to attend to patients with the most urgent, life-threatening conditions within target timeframes for a full year, according to information released by NHS England.

The data, released in May 2016, demonstrates that for the 12th consecutive month, ambulance services across the country have failed to meet their target of reaching 75% of calls urgent enough to be classed as “Red” priorities within 8 minutes, and 95% within 19 minutes. This is likely to leave patients concerned about the fact that their ambulance services may not able to deliver services to level we would all expect. Undue delays in dispatching an ambulance, an ambulance arriving or in delivery of critical care by an Ambulance Trust may in some instances be deemed medical negligence.

‘Red Call 2’ Response Times Not Met for Two Years

Red calls are divided into two categories: Red 1 calls relate to immediately life-threatening cases such as those where the patient is not breathing and/or doesn’t have a pulse. Red 2 calls are still serious, but relate to instances where the patient is not in immediate mortal danger – including having a fit or stroke. More worrying still, NHS England’s data indicates that the target response time for Red 2 calls has not been met since 2014 – the year when such targets were introduced.

East of England Ambulance Trust Worst in the Country

On a national basis, the final month (May) under analysis saw 70.5% of Red 1 calls responded to within the recommended 8-minute timeframe, compared to 65% of Red 2 calls. The country’s worst-offending services for this month were the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, which met only 63.4% of Red 1 calls within the target timeframe, and the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, which met just 56.8% of Red 2 calls within the deadline.

Targets Consistently Missed Across NHS Departments

Looking at figures over the course of the first half of 2016, the two worst performing Trusts in January in terms of response to Red 1 calls were Isle of Wight NHS Trust (60.4% against the 75 % target) and East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust (61.7%). By May, whilst having made improvements, both Trusts continued to miss the 75% target, achieving 66.7% and 67.3% respectively. The figures generally indicate volatility in terms of response time. NHS England has also drawn attention to failing services in other departments; with targets consistently being missed for both routine and cancer operations plus mounting delays in discharging patients from hospital.

Sustained, Substandard Performances Across Ambulance Trusts

Earlier this year we discussed the poor performance of NHS medical response teams, and it appears as though performance levels have not improved. In the face of sustained, substandard performances across the country, it can be little wonder that clinical negligence solicitors are gearing up to help patients let down by their local healthcare services.

NHS England attributes the failings to an increase in the number of emergency calls that trusts have to deal with, 11 million in 2015/16, representing a 7% increase compared with the previous year. Speaking on behalf of NHS England Matthew Swindells cited frontline emergency-response units as being under “intense pressure”, adding that measures had been implemented to address the mounting problems.

Our View on Ambulance Trusts’ Failure to Meet Targets

Jason Brady, clinical negligence solicitor at Blackwater Law, said:

“It is concerning to see this level of performance by ambulance trusts against what is such a critical target. Timely effective emergency health care may be the difference between a patient surviving and dying, or between them making a full recovery or only a partial one -with life-changing implications.

“Where an ambulance service has not provided care to a patient in what would be considered a reasonable time frame, or to a reasonable standard, and the patient has suffered as a result of this delay or poor care, there may even be grounds for a claim for clinical negligence compensation.”

If you or a loved one has received poor care due to delays in care provided by an ambulance trust, call Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors for free initial advice on whether you may be entitled to make a claim for clinical negligence compensation. You will receive expert advice from a specialist clinical negligence solicitor here at Blackwater Law. If the solicitor you speak with determines you may have a valid claim, Blackwater Law proceeds with all accepted cases on a no win, no fee basis.

Statistics cited in this article are based on data available at https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/ambulance-quality-indicators/ (accessed on 03/08/2016)