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GPs to wait 40 minutes for ambulances for critically ill patients under new trial

An ambulance service is piloting longer response times of up to 40 minutes for certain serious health conditions when the patient is already with a GP or other healthcare professional.

The trial, which covers around five million patients covered by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, downgrades a wide range of serious conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, sepsis, meningitis, an acute exacerbation of COPD/asthma or a blocked catheter where the patient is in severe pain.

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service suggests that an ambulance will only be called ‘immediately’ for somebody who is ‘unconscious’ or who has had a cardio-respiratory arrest, compromised airway, anaphylaxis, suspected leaking/ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) or an obstetric emergency.

The scheme also instructs GPs to fill out a form before dialling 999 – to ensure they have all the ‘relevant information’, such as patient’s name, age, why they need an ambulance and whether there is a defibrillator nearby. This could potentially delay getting hold of an ambulance even further.

Dr Dean Eggitt, a GP from near Doncaster, told Pulse: ‘Whoever has drawn this (pilot) up is either somebody who doesn’t understand medicine or who has no regard for human life. We know now that lives don’t matter.’

He added: ‘This is really, really serious stuff. The only way now to get an ambulance in eight minutes is when your heart has stopped or is about to stop.’

Dr Eggitt points out that while every minute counts with heart attacks or strokes, patients with these conditions could potentially wait up to 40 minutes for an ambulance.

‘This seems to be a move away from patients queuing and dying at hospital A&Es to GP practices where we don’t count the numbers dying. Perhaps we should.’

Dr Eggitt fears that the situation could get worse as the Yorkshire pilot could potentially be the first of a ‘roll-out’ of the initiative to other parts of the UK.

A spokesperson for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service said: ‘We confirm that updated guidance has been issued to GPs and healthcare professionals in the Yorkshire and Humber region which is specific to them making a request for an ambulance when a patient is in their care.

‘GPs and healthcare professionals should be with the patient and have direct knowledge of their condition so they can request an ambulance response for a conveying vehicle to arrive within an appropriate timeframe for their clinical needs. This can be escalated at any time should a patient’s condition deteriorate.’

‘The timeframe for the arrival of an emergency ambulance to convey the patient to hospital has not changed and remains within 19 minutes,’ added the spokesperson. ‘When life-saving assistance is required, the nearest available resource is always sent immediately.

A spokesperson for NHS England said that the Ambulance Response Programme is national, while the work ‘Yorkshire Ambulance Service is doing is separate and part of local arrangements’.

‘The Ambulance service is currently piloting an Ambulance Response Programme, which aims to ensure the fastest and most appropriate response for seriously ill patients, including those suffering suspected strokes, meningitis and sepsis,’ said the spokesperson. ‘

‘The letter from Yorkshire Ambulance Service does not relate to 999 calls made by the public, but is part of locally determined arrangements to transport patients to hospital who have already been assessed by a GP or other health care professional. These local transport arrangements are not part of the Ambulance Response Programme.”

The news comes as Pulse has revealed that very young and elderly patients are dying because of worsening delays to 999 calls. GPs have even been forced to drive patients to the hospital themselves after an ambulance failed to turn up.

Campaign group GP Survival compiled scores of incidents, arguing that patients were increasingly being put at risk due to underfunding of ambulance services.

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Readers' comments (21)

  • The NHS is the envy of the world........

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  • The NHS is hated by the political class hence the state it is in.

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  • Apart from the harm to the patient, what is a GP meant to do with 4 other patients whilst awaiting ambulance? I assume in Yorkshire, neighborly love is so good we can stick a ill patient in the waiting room and other patients there could look after him whilst we crack on with our surgery? Or we might tell all waiting patients to turn up at AED instead because we will be sitting in our room for next 40min whilst the ambulance is on it's way?

    It's seriously wrong when it's quicker to call a taxi then to wait for an ambulacne

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  • Dear All,
    For heavens sake; "but is part of locally determined arrangements" they claim. I bet GPs and the LMC were not involved. So just make up some other "locally determined" arrangements and see what the clipboard huggers do with that, probably scare the pants of them.
    Regards
    Paul C

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  • Telephone consultation,
    Patient's relative: I think Maureen's had a stroke, I saw that advert about FAST. The left side of her face is melted like an ice cream in an oven. Can you come and see her?
    Doc: Call an ambulance immediately and don't let her eat anything.
    Patient's relative: I did but the ambulance downgraded the call until you come round and fill in the form to make sure she's had a stroke and not just a UTI or just being a bit dramatic.
    Doc:... Facepalm

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  • GMC Coroners are going to be very busy. Where is the duty of candour of the clinicians who are allowing this to happen?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Not enough ambulances ,not enough money . What is the solution ? GPs
    ''When you work out the strategy in these pilots, and draw the policy,do not involve any of them!''
    As I commented in the other article about no involvement of GPs in drawing STPs, one is 'stupid' to tell the scapegoats that they are to be made the scapegoats. Common sense , isn't it?

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  • The urban clinical algorithm runs out at 20 minutes, idiots
    Much different in rural areas which has always been accepted.

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • We already wait 40mins. We have waited 4 hours before for what should have been a blue light emergency. I love the NHS

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  • Does the public know about this "game" ? Why GPS bow down to these ridiculous ppl? Ever wonder why Yorkshire ?? Why not in Cambridge or Oxford ??

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