EMAS decision due as county’s health scrutiny committee demands dedicated Lincolnshire ambulance service

Decision on future of the region's ambulance service is due.
Decision on future of the region's ambulance service is due.
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A decision on the future of the region’s ambulance service is due on Monday morning.

The East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) trust board is due to meet in Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, to make its final decision on its Being the Best consultation. This details a radical change to the way the service operates, in part replacing all ambulance stations with area hubs and stand-by points.

Meanwhile, Lincolnshire’s health scrutiny committee has said it will write to the Secretary of State to ask for EMAS’s “flawed” consultation to be reviewed – with the committee’s ultimate goal being a return to a dedicated ambulance service for the county.

The decision to write to the Government was made at its meeting on Wednesday after the committee expressed concerns over EMAS’s recent consultation process and its ambulance response times.

Councillor Christine Talbot, committee chairman, said: “On behalf of all residents in Lincolnshire – who deserve, and are not receiving the best response times from their ambulance service – the health scrutiny committee for Lincolnshire has today decided to ask the Secretary of State to review EMAS’s consultation.

“We believe the consultation is flawed; key parties were not invited to comment, new options not consulted on, and both public and stakeholder events poorly attended.

“Despite the goalposts changing, and new options being introduced at the 11th hour, EMAS’ proposals still entirely fail to address how they will start meeting response time targets for our county.

“EMAS has not met targets for the last 21 months in Lincolnshire and this isn’t good enough. It is not acceptable for voluntary organisations such as LIVES and other emergency services, who make a valuable contribution to response times, to prop up the ambulance service.

“The committee therefore has no confidence that EMAS’ pledge of ‘Being the Best’ will happen in Lincolnshire without considerable extra financing and will therefore be referring the matter to the Secretary of State. Our ultimate goal is to return a dedicated ambulance service to the county.”

At the same meeting, the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) was quizzed about its death rate figures being higher than expected.

Coun Talbot said: “The complex way that death rate figures are compiled do not tell the whole story and we need to separate avoidable deaths and causes in ULHT’s control from unavoidable deaths and local circumstances which they cannot influence. This will determine if any changes need to be made and the committee was reassured by ULHT’s determination to review and understand this data – and make changes if required.

“The data does not take into account Lincolnshire’s higher elderly population and it was also noted that a number of patients who would previously have been treated in Nottinghamshire have been coming to our county following changes at Newark A&E.

“That said, we believe significant progress has been made in identifying the issues.

“We asked for reassurances on nursing staff levels and were pleased to hear that an ongoing review is a ‘key element’ of their improvement programme. The committee hopes that, if needs are identified, sufficient funding will be made available. We also asked how minimising infections were being dealt with, and whether other demographic pressures can be managed.

“Our county’s residents deserve to have the confidence that they will receive the best possible care. We want to know that the right people are picking up on the indicators, and trigger points, as quickly as possible so issues are brought to light and addressed. The Health Scrutiny Committee for Lincolnshire will therefore continue to watch this situation closely on behalf of the county’s residents and have asked ULHT to return in September.”