Ambulance trusts face sustained surge in demand

26 January 2017

 

The National Audit Office has found that ambulance services are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with rising demand for urgent and emergency services.

A new report says demand for these services is growing, on average, by more than 5% a year.

It also points out that while activity increased by 30% between 2011/12 and 2015/16, funding for ambulance trusts’ urgent and emergency care rose by 16%.

The number of calls increased from 7.9m to 10.7m between 2009/10 and 2015/16. Increased funding has not matched rising demand.

The NAO warns that most ambulance trusts are struggling to recruit the staff they need.

 

Responding to the report, Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said:

“We welcome this timely update on the challenges facing the ambulance service in England and its performance in responding to them.

“The NAO’s report highlights a sustained surge in demand which has not been matched by increased funding. At the same time trusts have faced growing recruitment problems – contributing to a high vacancy rate. The report rightly identifies pay and the stressful nature of the job as contributory factors. It also points to growing problems achieving a smooth and prompt turnaround at A & E departments – which cause further delays for other patients.

In this very challenging environment ambulance trusts have fallen short of performance targets. However the progress they have made in delivering care in new ways is impressive.

 

In this very challenging environment ambulance trusts have fallen short of performance targets. However the progress they have made in delivering care in new ways is impressive, resulting in more calls being resolved over the telephone, or treated at the scene rather than requiring transport to hospital. This is good for patients and for the wider NHS.

“We support the NAO’s recommendation for better monitoring and assessment of ambulance trusts’ performance. We also share its concerns about some call time targets leading to inefficient use of resources and welcome the conclusion that commissioners need to consider the wider, more innovative role that ambulance trusts can play.”

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