East Midlands Ambulance Service fined for third successive year

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Media captionElsie Hubbard, 88, from Wymeswold, Leicestershire, waited two hours for an ambulance after she broke her hip in a fall

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) has been fined for a third successive year after it failed to meet national targets for patients involved in life-threatening emergencies.

The service was fined £3.5m by the group that commissions it because it missed a major NHS response time target in 2012-13.

Of 10 ambulance trusts in England, EMAS was one of only two to miss targets.

EMAS said it was making improvements.

'This is ridiculous'

The service is supposed to get an ambulance to 95% of all life-threatening emergencies within 19 minutes, but EMAS missed this target by more than 3%.

The chairman of Lincolnshire's Health Scrutiny Committee, Christine Talbot, said: "EMAS will have to come back in front of scrutiny to explain themselves, because this is ridiculous.

"If the response times in the East Midlands as a whole are bad, that means the response times in Lincolnshire are even worse."

In a separate report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), EMAS was found to have failed to meet three of six standards the commission uses to assess healthcare providers.

EMAS was told it needed to take action over its care of people who use the service, its staffing and its training and support.

The CQC carried out its routine inspection in March, speaking to staff and patients.

The report said: "Some [patients] told us they had experienced delays in receiving treatment due to ambulances not arriving in a timely manner. This was confirmed by records we saw."

In addition, the report criticised staffing levels, saying: "The trust does not have enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people's needs."

It also said the majority of staff did not feel supported by training or have confidence in their management to deal with issues.

'Work to do'

NHS Erewash Clinical Commissioning Group is the lead commissioner for the six counties EMAS serves - Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland.

Chief officer Rakesh Marwaha said: "It's vital that patients in the East Midlands receive high quality care as swiftly as possible and clearly there is still work to do to ensure that EMAS achieve the response standards required."

However, the service did meet the second target set by the NHS - to respond to 75% of callers reporting a life-threatening emergency within eight minutes.

During the previous two years, EMAS has been fined £2.5m and £5m for missing one or both of the targets. The money is reinvested in the service.

'Clear evidence'

Since September 2012, EMAS has been seeking to make extensive changes.

The service claimed it had already identified the areas where the CQC sought action.

In March, the service announced plans to reduce the number of ambulance stations from 65 to 28, creating nine "super-hubs", 19 smaller stations and 108 community points, changes which it said would improve response times.

EMAS has also taken on 140 new emergency care assistants.

In addition, it plans to recruit an extra 155 staff in 2013-14.

EMAS's chief executive, Phil Milligan, insisted the figures showed performance had turned a corner.

He said: "East Midlands Ambulance Service is improving, the evidence is clear. We achieved for the second year running the eight-minute target for life-threatening emergencies, so that's a major improvement in the past 18 months.

"The performance on the 19-minute target over the past two months shows a step improvement and all of this follows the change programme we have been implementing after a consultation with public and staff last year."

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