Ambulance service faces £2.2m fine over response times

East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust faces a fine of up to £2.2m

East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust faces a fine of up to £2.2m - Credit: Archant

AN UNDER-FIRE ambulance service could face a fine of up to £2.2m after failing to meet response time targets.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust will incur a financial penalty after not meeting national standards last year. It failed to respond to 75 per cent of the most life-threatening cases within eight minutes and is not reaching 95 per cent of A19-category calls within 19 minutes.

It is not yet known exactly how much the trust will be fined, but Adrian Matthews, director of strategy and business development, confirmed the news of the fine to his colleagues in a board meeting.

The fine follows a Care Quality Commission report published last month which found response times had “deteriorated” and “people could not be assured they would receive care in a timely and effective manner”.

Trust chairman Maria Ball subsequently resigned from her post.

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North and East Hertfordshire MP Oliver Heald has called for more full-size ambulances to be in operation in the area.

He said: “The fact is the trust has been through a very difficult period. I’ve been to a number of meetings at Westminster and in my constituency with the former chairman and the chief executive pressing them for action.

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“There aren’t enough full-size ambulances to respond to patients’ calls in time. There’s not the right balance between the number of cars and ambulances and I’m pushing to have an extra full-size ambulance in our area so we see an improved performance.

“We’ve had some examples in Letchworth where there have been delays and it’s not good enough. After the chairman’s resignation, I’m hoping there will now be strong and effective management for the future.”

The newly formed Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group are responsible for handing out the fine – as they contract the trust for the whole eastern region.

John Wicks, interim chief contracts officer for both groups, said: “The national NHS contract has a financial consequence for ambulance trusts who fail to meet the agreed national standards for response times across an entire year. “This equates to two per cent of the contract value and unfortunately in 2012-13 the East of England Ambulance Service Trust has fallen short of these standards and this consequence must be applied.”

Gary Sanderson, ambulance service spokesman, said: “We are working very closely with the commissioners.”

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