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Independents' Day

Give ambulances a (15-minute) break

From Dr Sophia Nelson, GP registrar, Merseyside

I wish to respond to the article 'Ambulance trusts failing to respond to GP urgent requests inside 15-minute targets' (News, 24 August).

Ambulances requested by members

of the public are given priority over

those requested by a GP. Emergency ambulances (999 calls) have different targets imposed. GP requested ambulances are obliged to arrive within 15 minutes of the agreed time. So, for example, if a GP requests an ambulance within the hour, the crew is obliged to arrive within 75 minutes.

The GP in the story told of an ambulance taking a hour to arrive for a patient with an unusual heart condition. I would suggest that if the patient needed emergency monitoring, treatment and transfer to hospital, then an emergency ambulance should have been booked. This type of complaint would fall into at least a category B call (serious but not life-threatening) if not a category A (life-threatening).

Might I suggest that, if ambulances are not meeting their supposed targets, we look to the causes for this rather than criticise the symptom?

GPs often book urgent ambulances 'within the hour', to collect the patient from home once they have packed a bag. Why, if they are well enough to leave the surgery and get home, are they not well enough to get a taxi to hospital? There will always be patients who are too frail for this but there is definitely room for improvement.

Paramedics do an infinitely difficult job in sometimes dangerous and often unforgiving circumstances. What's more, they receive little thanks for it. The

press often report on the success of fire crews' rescue attempts. One rarely reads about the calm, life-saving work of a paramedic.

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