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Calls To 999 Now Only Classed As Emergency If You Have Stopped Breathing!

Whilst that headlione may appear to be trivial and outlandishly exagerating, the reality is that it is indeed an appropriate headline for this news item on the NHS Ambulance Services.

Pic: AmbulanceStrapped for cash and resources, simply because we are using them as intended, Tory Health Sectretary, Jeremy Hunt's answer to the struggling under-funded and under-resourced NHS Ambulance Service is to re-classify emergencies as being only those calls which meet his new criteria:

* When a person is not breathing or their heart has stopped. These calls are still classed as life-threatening. Response time target is now set at 7 minutes to a maximum of 15 minutes for 90% of patients!

That is it! The only case when an Emergency ambulance and para-medic will be dispatched urgently.

So now for the millions of patients, such as those with suspected heart attack and strokes, they will be re-classified from the life-threatening category to an emergency category.

The response time: 18 to 40 minutes for 90% of patients. At present, half of all 999 calls for an ambulance are considered life-threatening, and a paramedic is expected to be on the scene within eight minutes.

Of course none of these targets actually include travel time from pick up to the hospital and with more and more hospitals facing closure, the argument that this will save lives is appallingly wrong.

So forget advice regarding strokes that the first hour is critical to get to hospital for treatment, because the Ambulance service will be ignoring it!

NHS England bosses claim this will save lives because at present, many calls classed as life-threatening turn out not to be, with figures showing that a quarter of patients currently classed as life-threatening are not transported to hospital.
However, critics of the plan don't see how these new classification system will work, simply because it is the caller, caller's family or even a complete strangers who makes the call and explains the situation.

Quite frankly, the temptation will now be to exaggerate the symptoms to ensure the quickest way of getting medical help!

Not only that, there are many situations were medical is not at first urgent, but then suddenly becomes it.
The whole premise of prevention of death and life changing complications from strokes and heart attacks has now completely gone from the remit of the NHS and the ambulance service in this country.

In the USA and Canada, a patient never knows whether or not an ambulance will arrive or a Fire Engine!

Simply because a shortage of private ambulances are subsidied with trained fire fioghters attending emergency and life threatening calls. This is the true face of privatised medical care and emergency services.

Pic: US AmbualceNot ony that, many US and Canadian cities and towns do not have access to their emergency number system, 911; because of the costs charged by the private phone companies. So pateints have to call a long normal telephone number to an ambulance dispatch centre.

There has been similar noises being made by the Government to do the same in the UK, despite the lack of fire stations due to closures and a reducing capacity of the fire brigade to deal with emergency calls within target times specified. Expect those too, to be relaxed by this Tory government whose mere aim os to privatise everything.

Hunt being the coward that he is, declared all this, not at in person in Parliament, but in a written statement:

"I am today announcing the publication of the University of Sheffield Report on the Ambulance Response Programme and subsequent recommendations by Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s National Medical Director.

The report evaluates a series of pilots that I announced to the House in my Written Ministerial Statement of 6 January 2015, intended to support ambulance services in England to maintain and improve clinical outcomes for patients in the face of unprecedented increases in demand.

Copies of the report and Sir Bruce’s recommendations are attached.

Based on the extensive evidence base detailed in the report, NHS England is proposing a new framework of ambulance performance standards and related operational changes that are focused on patients’ clinical needs and will help the service to operate more efficiently.

In particular:

  • enabling ambulances to dispatch resources much more clearly based on the clinical needs of patients ensuring the consistent delivery of very rapid responses to those who genuinely need them, through putting in place a four tier response time based on the clinical needs of patients;

  • introducing specific standards for stroke and heart attack, aimed at ensuring patients start the right treatment in hospital as quickly as possible;

  • improving performance management of ‘tail’ waits by introducing mean and 90th centile measures; and,
  • achieving greater consistency and transparency for less urgent calls by bringing all response standards into a consistent national framework.

These ambulance response times are more stringent than anywhere else in the UK. Moreover, evidence from the pilots suggests that these changes will be beneficial for rural populations, narrowing the gap which currently exists in the time it takes for an ambulance resource to transport patients to hospital.

In my statement in January 2015 I said I would apply the following three tests before extending the Ambulance Response Programme:

  • there is clear clinical consensus that the proposed change will be beneficial to patient outcomes as a whole, and will act to reduce overall clinical risk in the system;

  • there is evidence from the analysis of existing data and piloting that the proposed change will have the intended benefits, and is safe for patients; and,

  • there is an associated increase in operational efficiency. The aim is to reduce the average number of vehicles allocated to each 999 call and the ambulance utilisation rate.

I have accepted Sir Bruce’s advice that these tests have been met. I am authorising NHS England to implement the Ambulance Response Programme recommendations in all ambulance services in the England so that patients across the country will benefit from the improvements seen in the pilot ambulance services."

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh has announced that he will be stepping down as NHS England’s National Medical Director at the end of the year after 10 years in the role. So it will be interesting to see who his replacement will be - someone else from private healthcare in the USA, as many fear, to accompany Simon Stevens from US Medicare to help further sell off the NHS to Ameicas under a futurew US/UK trade deal.

Source: Parliament UK

You can download the Ambulance Report by Sheffield Univeristy here

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