The claim that the new ambulance response times in England will save lives will need the closest monitoring in the months ahead, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 13 July).
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that the new guidelines for 999 response times, had to be judged against a background of a recruitment and retention crisis amongst paramedics, and the continuing funding shortfall for the NHS.
NHS England has announced that fewer 999 ambulance calls will be classed as life-threatening and needing a super-fast response, as part of the biggest shake-up in the service in 40 years. It claims that the move will save lives and that, at present, many calls classed as life-threatening turn out not to be.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “We have been broadly supportive of the ambulance response times’ review, as the right vehicle needs to be sent in the right circumstances to provide the best care possible for patients.
“However, it is a situation that we will be watching closely in the months ahead as our paramedic members have continually reported that the ambulance service is under severe stress and pressure across England. This, in turn, has had an impact on patients and their families.
“This is because of the recruitment and retention crisis affecting ambulance staff who, like the majority of the NHS workforce, have seen their incomes eroded by about 17 per cent in real terms since 2010.
“More generally, the NHS needs a massive cash injection to support the continuing delivery of high-class patient care - and that includes the 999 service.
“Unite strongly supports any measure that saves more lives by the correct and timely allocation of ambulance staff, but we do remain very worried about the underlying NHS funding issues.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.