Union claims East of England Ambulance Trust 'misleading public'

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) is misleading the public by distorting emergency response times, a union has claimed.

The GMB said the trust was marking 999 calls as "target met" when the emergency was still ongoing, to hit targets.

The trust strongly denied the accusation, calling the claims "untrue, unacceptable and very disappointing".

The EEAST has reached its targets over the past year.

'Distorting figures'

Mick Vivian, a GMB organiser, said in a statement: "One thing they cannot allow is management distorting the figures on targets met because this simply misleads the public and everybody else.

"GMB wants to see an end to such form filling."

The union's statement claims a casualty with a fractured hip was left on the floor, in the rain, for two-and-a-half hours with a rapid-response paramedic, while they waited for an ambulance.

The union alleges this call would have been marked as meeting its government target, as the rapid-response car reached the casualty within the eight-minute period.

Mr Vivian said union members in the ambulance service were concerned by reports the trust planned to cut 400 jobs over the next three years.

A spokeswoman for the EEAST said the allegations had "absolutely no base in truth whatsoever".

The EEAST provides ambulances for six counties; Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Hertfordshire.

Department of Health targets include reaching 75% of life-threatening calls within eight minutes and getting transport to 95% of cases within 19 minutes of the request being made.

Care to patients

Between April to November 2011, the EEAST responded to 75.8% of life-threatening calls within eight minutes, and 95% of non life-threatening 999 calls within 19 minutes.

"The A8 (eight minute) standard is not, and has never been, about ambulance response, but about getting care to patients in potentially life-threatening emergencies," the spokeswoman said.

"The case cited by GMB in a bid to lend weight to the allegation was not life-threatening so was subject to neither of these standards and the quick arrival of a clinician had no impact on targets as alleged.

"We do recognise that the length of time in getting hospital transport to this particular patient was simply not good enough however.

"It is for this reason that this atypical incident is being investigated, as all back-up delays are."

There are no plans to make frontline staff redundant, she added.

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