It takes longer for ambulances to respond to call outs in the Ribble Valley, special report reveals

Response times for ambulances to incidents within the Ribble Valley are more than the national average, an investigation has revealed.

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 3:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 3:23 pm
Ambulance response times in the Ribble Valley are more than the national average, a special investigation has revealed.

An ambulance aims to respond to an emergency within six to eight minutes, depending on location, with rural response times naturally greater.

However, a recent special report by the BBC has revealed just how much greater those response times are.

Currently, the average response time for rural call outs is 11 minutes and 13 seconds, but in the Ribble Valley these call out times increase to 14 minutes and 23 seconds.

The statistics, which home in on postcode districts, do not include rapid response vehicles or community first responders as these no longer "stop the clock" for emergency calls.

And the ambulance that responds to an emergency will always be the nearest available one so this could be from anywhere.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, BBC reporters obtained the average response times for the most life-threatening call outs, including cardiac arrests, stab wounds, major blood loss, seizures, patients not breathing or struggling to breathe and in the end stages of labour, in more than 2,700 local communities across Britain.

These times cover the point at which a trained person reaches the patient - so it could be an ambulance or volunteers trained by the service to respond to these highest-priority cases.

A spokesperson for North West Ambulance Service said in areas where the population is sparse, such as the Ribble Valley, it often meant that ambulances have to travel further distances to get to patients.

“Due the amount of emergencies we attend, ambulances rarely wait for an incident meaning that they go from one call to another and when some of those incidents are in remote areas, it is difficult to reach them within the target time of seven minutes for a category one emergency.

“We have recently made improvements by putting in place additional resources in some areas meaning that more ambulances are available to attend emergencies.

“Our patients also hugely benefit from the support of community first responders (CFRs), particularly in the most rural parts of our region. These are volunteers who give up their time to respond to emergencies in their local area and are able to arrive as quickly as possible however, since the new ambulance targets came into force in 2017, the arrival of a CFR no longer stops the clock. This means that while the response time may show an arrival above seven minutes, it is possible that there is help with the patient before then."

She added: “This year we are celebrating 20 years of CFRs in NWAS and currently have over 800 across the trust, almost 200 of which are in Lancashire.We work with them to offer training opportunities and encourage recruitment.

“We have also invested heavily in lifesaving community public access defibrillators along with help from kind donations to our North West Ambulance Charity. These can be accessed and used by anyone and give patients in cardiac arrest the best possible chance of survival. We currently have over 600 operational in Lancashire.”

Experts have said that delays could make the difference between life and death.

Research has shown that if patients are given all the treatment immediately, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation - an electric shock to restart the heart - about two-thirds can survive. But every minute delay reduces survival by 10%.

However, rural areas are seen as particularly "challenging'" because of the distances involved, narrow roads and - when the weather was bad - the difficulty getting around.