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Ambulance emergency response target missed for whole year

Published 14/07/2016

The most serious Red 1 calls should have an ambulance on the scene within eight minutes 75% of the time
The most serious Red 1 calls should have an ambulance on the scene within eight minutes 75% of the time

Ambulances across England have missed their target for responding to life-threatening emergencies for an entire year, data shows.

The most serious Red 1 calls - such as for cardiac arrests or where the patient is not breathing - should have an ambulance on the scene within eight minutes 75% of the time.

But new data from NHS England shows that the target has now been missed for 12 months in a row.

The target for Red 2 calls, for other life-threatening cases such as strokes, has also not been met since January 2014.

During May, 70.5% of Red 1 calls were met in eight minutes and for Red 2 calls it was 65%.

For Red 1, only one trust, the West Midlands, exceeded the 75% target.

Five trusts were under 70% - North East (67.1%), East Midlands (67.3%), East of England (63.4%), South East Coast (66.4%) and Isle of Wight (66.7%).

The data also showed the NHS continues to struggle with other targets.

Those for waiting times in A&E, cancer care and routine operations have also been missed. Delays discharging patients from hospital have reached new record levels.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England's national director for operations and information, said some of the A&E statistics showed good news.

He said: "The ongoing picture is one of frontline services under intense pressure, but this month has seen another improvement in performance.

"Long waits in A&E have halved since last month and 185,000 more patients were seen in under four hours during May. We continue to admit, treat or discharge more than nine out of 10 patients within the target time. However, these new figures continue to show social care-related delayed hospital discharges up by a third compared with last year."

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust health think tank, said: "By this time of year, the health service would normally expect to see a reduction in the pressure it suffers during winter and spring.

"But the fact that the proportion of people being moved through A&E within four hours was still a long way below the 95% target in May shows that the traditional summer respite for the NHS is now becoming a thing of the past.

"In addition, for the third month running the total number of days patients spent waiting to be discharged from hospital was the highest since the NHS started keeping records.

"That's largely because many frail elderly patients need help from local authorities, such as adaptations to their own home or a care home place, before they can leave hospital.

"But only this week the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services revealed that council social services currently have a funding gap of around £940 million just to keep services operating at last year's levels, so it's unlikely that this problem is going to be solved soon."

Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said: "These figures are another grim reminder that Tory health policies have failed and pushed the NHS to the brink of disaster.

"The NHS has been on its knees for years now. In a clear false economy, cuts to social care mean more and more patients languish in hospitals. Waiting lists are growing and, once again, the Government is failing patients by missing key targets on cancer treatment and A&E waiting times."

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