THE partner of Weymouth and Portland borough council leader, Jeff Cant, who collapsed at a meeting last month, has criticised the response time for an emergency ambulance.
He was offered immediate help by fellow councillor, Dr Jon Orrell.
Cllr Alison Reed said it was unacceptable that it took an hour and three quarters to get an ambulance to deal with Mr Cant’s suspected heart attack.
She told the county council health scrutiny committee that her criticism was not of the ambulance crew, but of the system which assesses call priority.
“I drove from Southampton to Dorset County Hospital in less time than it took the ambulance to get there, which is not good” she said.
“At 10 to 11am this is just not good enough..fortunately he is still with us, but it could have been a different story. There has not been any explanation. An hour and three quarters is outrageous.”
Because of the time delay further calls were made to ambulance control. Cllr Reed said that when that happened they were told to stop calling because it would only add to delays.
She told the committee that she understood the pressures the service was under often having to deal with repeated calls from people who wanted attention, or were just lonely, or had mental health problems.
“We do need to ensure that people use the service in the correct way, which would help when they have to deal with genuine emergencies.”
A spokesman for the ambulance trust said that because the patient was breathing and with a doctor the call was dealt with as being a level down from immediate threat to life.
“SWASFT would like to apologise that we were unable to reach this gentleman more quickly. At the time of this call there were several serious life-threatening, time-critical incidents in the Weymouth area. The patient was on scene with a Doctor and was reported to be conscious and breathing at the time of the call.
“Managing the demand on the ambulance service across the South West can be very challenging. Whilst we will always strive to reach our patients in a timely manner, we must prioritise those with the greatest clinical need. Sometimes this means that less poorly patients do not get the response that we would wish.”
Cllr Nick Ireland told the committee that figures he had seen for the day before the health scrutiny committee that across the ambulance trust area seven emergency calls had taken more than an hour and at Dorset County Hospital there had been nine which took more than half an hour.
Cllr Peter Oggelsby said that he believed much of the problem was that many of the proposals to improve response times appeared not to have been put into place, including moving staff to areas where response times were slow.
Cllr Beryl Ezzard said other trusts made good use of first responders and had improved their networks of defibrillators to help improve immediate help and questioned whether the South West ambulance service could be doing more.
The committee will now ask representatives from the ambulance trust to attend their meetings on a regular basis to update them on progress, or problems, in delivering the service.
A Care Quality Commission follow-up inspections of the service which took place in May and mid-summer, looked at emergency and urgent care provision and rated it as “requires improvement.”