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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 19:14 GMT
Ambulance trust warns of 999 delays
Emergency response times are under scrutiny
The Westcountry Ambulance Trust claims it is unlikely to meet the government's new 999 response times in the South West unless it is given more money.

It said that it needs almost 3m to meet the targets.

The South West's four health authorities have said they have not got the funds.

Now negotiations are going on between the health authorities and the trust to overcome the problems.

The trust wants to cut ambulance waiting times
The government's drive to improve ambulance response times has already resulted in big improvements across the South West.

But the Westcountry Ambulance Trust says it is going to struggle to meet the latest response times for life-threatening call outs.

By April 2002, 75% of calls of what are perceived to be life-threatening cases in urban areas should be responded to in eight minutes.

In rural areas ambulances should arrive within 17 minutes.

At the moment, the ambulance trust says it is on course to meet 73% of that target.

But it has been told by the region's health authorities that more money is not available and that they will have to think of alternative ways of working to meet the government targets.

We are working with the health authorities to improve the resources we do have

Westcountry Ambulance Trust
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Health Authority says it has already provided an extra 1.4m this year to help improve response times.

Although it said there may be some more money, it is unlikely to meet the ambulance trust's requested amount.

A spokesperson for the trust said that it needs to work with the health authorities to alleviate some of the problems.

She said: "We need 2.9m to provide resources such as front line ambulances, training and staff. We are funded by the health authorities in the area, but we know their money pots are finite as well."

Improving resources

Other ways of achieving the targets are now being discussed.

The ambulance trust spokesperson said: "We are working with the health authorities to improve the resources we do have."

Examples of efficiency drives will be speeding up patient transfer times.

The trust spokesperson said: "We need to reduce waiting time at accident and emergency units because otherwise ambulances are left waiting when they could be responding."

Earlier this year, the trust expressed its anger over crews being left waiting with patients for up to three hours at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth because of bed shortages.

A spokesperson from the Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust said: "Problems have been well-publicised and constant recruitment effort and the redesign of the hospital should help alleviate some of the problems."

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