With the rising demand on NHS services, the National Audit Office have warned that ambulance crews across the country are struggling to cope.
This new warning comes just two months after a BBC investigation found increasing delays in 999 calls being answered.
The National Audit Office say that a combination of rising demand, other pressures within the NHS and recruitment problems mean crews are finding it “increasingly difficult to cope” let alone hit their targets.
NHS bosses have revealed that they might relax the eight-minute target for calls, where it is not necessary.
South Western, Yorkshire, and West Midlands ambulance services are currently piloting a scheme where the eight-minute response is relaxed in cases such as fits, and strokes. Although the calls are urgent the evidence suggests that such a quick response is not necessary in these cases.
Prof Keith Willett, of NHS England, told the BBC: “These trials are designed to make sure ambulances focus on the right priority – getting to the most urgent patients in the quickest possible time and improving the service to all patients who dial 999.”
A BBC investigation found that ambulances were backed up on arrival at hospitals because staff were too busy to bring the patients into A&E.
The investigation also found that only one of the 13 ambulance services in the UK was meeting the eight-minute target to reach the most life-threatening cases.
The National Audit Office only looked at services in England. It has highlighted its findings to NHS bosses to review.
NHS England data shows that there has been a rise in demand over the past four years. In 2011/12 the number of 999 calls received was 8,157,648, by 2015/16 this had risen to 9,404,676.
One of the issues highlighted is that the 30% increase in calls has been met by only a 16% increase in funds.
Christina McAnea, of Unison, which represents ambulance staff, said: “There’s simply not enough money to cope.”
NHS England have said that steps are being taken and ambulances have been given longer to assess the calls before they attend to them.
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