POOR performance by the ambulance service in Wiltshire is being tackled head-on, bosses claim.

South Western Ambulance Services NHS Foundation Trust figures show that it failed meet national response-time targets during the ten months to the end of January.

Ambulance trusts are required to reach 75 per cent of the most serious “Red 1”cases such as heart attacks or choking, within eight minutes.

In Wiltshire the average figure across the ten months was 58.6 per cent. And the figure for potentially life-threatening “Red 2” cases such as serious bleeding was 64.3 per cent.

In both categories, the performance was worse in Wiltshire than across the trust’s entire patch, which runs from Wiltshire to Cornwall and includes Swindon and Bristol. Within Wiltshire, the trust also failed to meet its target for reaching 95 per cent of "Red 19" cases within 19 minutes.

A report by ambulance trust bosses to the Wiltshire Council Health Select Committee says the trust is “struggling to meet response times in our more rural areas, including Wiltshire”.

But it says it “is very focused on meeting the eight-minute response target” and has boosted recruitment of Community First Responders, installation of defibrillators in public places and schemes to make more staff available at peak times.

It warns that more resources are required to meet the overall level of demand. The report also says that too many cases are still transferred to the ambulance service by NHS 111 in Wiltshire. However, a separate report to the committee from Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group into the problems at NHS 111 says fewer cases are being referred to the ambulance service and “significant progress” has been made.

Last month ambulance paramedics complained about the increase in calls being put through from NHS 111 in Wiltshire.

One paramedic told the Journal’s sister paper The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald that call-outs had gone up from five to 15 on a shift and many were unnecessary jobs sent via NHS 111.

In response, Dr David Lee, national medical director for Harmoni, which runs the service, said: “Our ambulance dispatch rates are carefully monitored by local commissioners and at a national level, so there is a very strong structure in place to identify if ambulance dispatch rates become higher than expected.”

* THE Wiltshire CCG report into NHS 111 in Wiltshire says intensive monitoring and new staff have led to improvements in what had been an “unacceptable” level of service.

The phone advice service started in February, but the report says although performance since November has been variable, staff are better at prioritising calls that need to be referred to other health organisations. Calls to patients who need expert advice are also being made more quickly.
Special phone lines have also been set up for health professionals and patient groups.

The report says there are 250 calls to the service on a weekday and 650 on Saturdays and Sundays.

More of these calls are being answered within 60 seconds and the number of calls abandoned after 30 seconds does not exceed the agreed threshold of five per cent.