East Midlands Ambulance Service response 'must improve'

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) has been ordered to improve after NHS data showed it had the worst response times in England.

In June 2010, the service responded to 72.3% of Category A calls in eight minutes compared to a national average of 76.3%.

The NHS confirmed an improvement plan was being implemented.

EMAS said a rise in 999 calls, a new computer system in Lincolnshire and hygiene training affected performance.

'More 999 calls'

In a statement a spokesperson for EMAS said: "Over a full year, we must attend 75% of Category A, life-threatening (999) calls, within eight minutes and 95% of all Category B, serious but not immediately life-threatening calls within 19 minutes.

"At present, we are 0.7% adrift of a target we must reach in eight months' time.

"We acknowledge that we are not currently hitting those standards consistently but this masks the fact that despite our best efforts, some of our responses are outside the target time simply because we are responding to more 999 calls than in the past."

EMAS said the implementation of the Single Computer Aided Despatch (CAD) System in Lincolnshire had prompted a drop in performance.

It also cited a 4.6% growth in Category A calls in May 2010, compared to the same period last year.

Training needs

The service added that, following an unannounced visit by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a staff training agenda in hygiene had had an impact on front-line staff availability and cover.

Kate Brown, Assistant Director of Commissioning at NHS Derbyshire County, said: "We can confirm that we have issued a performance notice to EMAS and an action plan is now in place to ensure that patients benefit from a significant improvement in performance...

"The performance notice is a contractual warning, highlighting a requirement to improve service."

East Midlands Ambulance Service covers six counties and handles more than 600,000 emergency calls a year.

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