Ambulance response times in the South West are the second worst in the UK

Ambulance response times in the South West are among the worst in the UK and are getting worse, new research has revealed Credit: BPM Media

Ambulance response times in the South West are among the worst in the UK and are continuing to get longer, new research has revealed.

According to analysis of response times from ambulances trusts around the country, while there had been some slight improvement last month in the South West, response times for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) remained far longer than NHS targets.

Ambulances took an average of 11 minutes and 11 seconds to respond to Category one calls for life-threatening injuries in the region in October.

That is only slightly up from 11 minutes and 10 seconds in September, but far longer than the seven-minute target set by the NHS.

It is the second longest response time for category one calls in England, just behind 11 minutes 12 seconds in the East of England.

Category two calls, which cover incidents like strokes, were responded to in an average of one hour 12 minutes - well behind the 18-minute target.

That figure is up from one hour eight minutes the month before.

Meanwhile, category three calls were dealt with in an average of three hours 16 minutes, compared to a target of two hours.

Category four calls were responded to within an average of two hours 57 minutes, compared to a target of three hours.

'The system should be treating somebody an awful lot better'

It comes after a 90-year-old woman was forced to wait 40 hours for an ambulance after falling at her home in Cornwall.

Daphne Syms fell on 14 August and pulled the emergency cord in her home which alerted other family members to her fall.

They initially called NHS 111 and, following an assessment, a call handler determined Daphne had a suspected broken hip.

She then sat in a chair for two days waiting for an ambulance as her son Steven stayed awake to monitor her.

At the time, Steven said: "It gave me an immense sense of frustration, total frustration knowing that the system should be treating somebody an awful lot better than that."

ITV News West Country also reported on a 79-year-old woman from Cornwall who waited in the back of an ambulance for more than 20 hours with a broken hip outside hospital in the same month.

Ann Morrison fell from her mobility scooter into the road where she lay for two hours before paramedics arrived.

She then spent almost a full day and night outside the hospital before a bed became available.

Her son Ron said at the time: "It goes beyond being annoyed, you’re almost disbelieving that that can happen in this day and age."

More recently, in October 72-year-old Mary Kinsella was left lying in a street for nine hours after breaking her hip because no ambulances were available to take her to hospital.

Grandmother Mary Kinsella was left on the "freezing" floor for nine hours Credit: BPM Media

Ambulance service bosses have blamed handover delays at emergency departments across the region for poor response times saying bedblockers fit enough to leave hospital wards are holding the system back.

In recent months there have been incidents where dozens or more ambulances were spotted queueing outside the emergency department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro for several hours.

In October, it was revealed that on one occasion more than 30 ambulances were stacked up at Treliske waiting to discharge their patients into the hospital.

A spokesperson for SWASFT said: "Our ambulance clinicians strive every day to give their best to patients, but our performance has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, partly due to handover delays at emergency departments.

“Health and social care services are under enormous pressure.

"We are working with our partners in the NHS and social care, to do all we can to improve the service that patients receive.”

A spokesperson for Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust said: “None of us want people to wait any longer than necessary for their care and our staff are working incredibly hard to keep people safe and treat them as quickly as possible.

“Our urgent and emergency care teams have been introducing new ways of working and the last two weeks have seen early signs of improvement. Our operational alert level has gone down a step and we are sustaining long periods of time with no ambulance holds.

“There is much more to do, and we are working with our health and care partners to address other challenges, as we continue to have a high number of people who are ready to leave hospital but who are waiting for ongoing care or support.”