Ambulance Service exposed for putting patients at risk

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I was concerned to read the recent revelation that South East Coast Ambulance Trust (SECAT) is under investigation, having been exposed by a whistle-blower in relation to deliberate delay of ambulance services to patients in order to meet government targets.

Under NHS rules, patients who report life-threatening symptoms are supposed to receive an ambulance within eight minutes and this applies to calls made via the 111 non-emergency line as well as the emergency 999 service. It appears that between December 2014 and February 2015 SECAT implemented a system whereby when patients reported life-threatening symptoms through 111 calls, their calls, were transferred through to the 999 service to be re-assessed before an ambulance was formally assigned to the call. This effectively gave paramedics an extra 10 minutes to reach the patient and meant that the trust could ensure that the NHS target of reaching a patient reporting life-threatening symptoms within the eight minute timeframe, was met.

SECAT covers Sussex, Kent, Surrey and North East Hampshire and over a period of two months it is suggested that up to 20,000 patients were affected by the protocol put in place. SECAT's senior management will now be reviewed and NHS England is due to publish a report on 5 November 2015. It is particularly concerning that the deaths of 25 patients are being investigated and the trust will have to answer for the serious shortfalls and failings in ensuring patient safety.

If you are worried that you have been negatively affected by a delayed ambulance response time and should you need advice, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be pleased to help.

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