HEALTH bosses asked for assurance about the “sea of red” they saw when looking at ambulance performance in Bolton.
The ambulance service has been continuously failed to meet performance targets brought in more than a year ago, leaving patients waiting longer for life-saving medical aid.
Wirin Bhatiani, chairman of Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) told ambulance bosses: “The board are concerned about the sea of red in terms of the indicators we have.”
The board heard from the ambulance service that it was just getting to grips with a new way of working and was shifting the less serious calls into the community services to prevent unnecessary ambulance journeys.
North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) covers Bolton and in August 2017 signed up to new methods with altered targets. This new system is the Ambulance Response Programme (ARP).
This includes an average response time of less than 7 minutes to the most serious, life-threatening category one incidents.
Not once has NWAS met this target in Bolton.
Patrick McFadden, a leading paramedic in Greater Manchester spoke to the CCG board on Friday.
He said: “We’re trying to morph the service to meet new standards.
“As a result of going on to ARP we had to work out our fleet.”
NWAS has invested in the number of ambulances it had going from 100 to 120 in Greater Manchester and reducing the number of rapid response vehicles to 23 to better meet these targets.
Mr McFadden explained to the board the improvements initially were slow but picked up in January-March 2018.
A Freedom of Information request shows the organisation struggled with lengthening response times for the most serious calls. In 2015 the average response time was 6mins 54secs, by 2017 this was 10mins 9secs.
In 2018 the service showed improvement dropping to 8mins 53secs.
In Bolton average response times mirror this. They were 10mins 7secs in August 2017 but began to drop almost immediately, reaching 8mins 55secs in February 2018.
August 2018 saw them just miss out on the target with an average response time in Bolton of 7mins 7secs.
In February this year the average response time was 7mins 25secs.
Mr McFadden said: “We’re just a few seconds above the standards in Bolton.”
Ian Moses, service improvement lead for urgent and emergency care at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, told the CCG: “ARP offers an opportunity to manage lower acuity calls differently. Category one and two first and then the health economy comes together to manage category three and four.”
Work to prevent ambulances taking people to hospital unnecessarily is already underway in Bolton. In the last 12 months 22.6 per cent of all 999 calls in Bolton were treated at the scene and a further 17.7 per cent were referred elsewhere or is was established an ambulance was not needed.