Ambulance Service Association

Ambulance Service Association

April 16, 2007 08:44 ET

Tonight Programme Is "Inaccurate, One-Sided NHS-Bashing" Says Ambulance Service Association

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - April 16, 2007) -

A Tonight With Trevor McDonald programme entitled Paramedic Lottery which is due to be aired this evening on ITV1 at 8pm has been denounced by the Ambulance Service Association (ASA) as being, "a scaremongering, one-sided example of NHS bashing at its worst."

The ASA - which represents all of the NHS ambulance services across England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as the public ambulance services of the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Guernsey and Jersey - is concerned that patients watching the programme may become alarmed by the extremely inaccurate and misleading data that the programme draws on to make its claims of an unsafe ambulance service.

The ASA is also concerned that despite its members assisting the show's producers and researchers numerous times, nobody from the ASA or any representatives of the ambulance Trusts being criticized by the programme has been given the opportunity to appear on the show in order to respond to the allegations being made against the ambulance service. This will inevitably lead to a one-sided argument.

Ken Wenman, Chief Executive of South Western Ambulance Service and an ASA Board Member is incensed by the Tonight programme's apparent lack of objectivity. He says: "The ambulance service is working hard to protect and save lives every day so when yet another of these NHS-bashing programmes comes along it is extremely frustrating. We understand that the show will paint a picture of an unsafe ambulance service which is absolute nonsense and we are worried that this scaremongering will affect the public's perception of the safety of their local ambulance services.

"Much of the data being used in the programme is being used to build a false picture. For example they are saying that 34% of the ambulance staff in London are paramedics when the actual figures show that in the last three months 60% of ambulances were staffed by paramedics. The show also has no statistics or data to show how many incidents occur where a paramedic attends in the first instance so how can they build a whole show around this issue? What is important - and what the show deliberately seems to overlook - is the number of patients that are treated successfully by ambulance services as a percentage of the whole. When you consider that 30-35% of the calls we are dealing with are considered by the call centre triage system to be life-threatening (Category A) and then only 10% turn out to actually be genuinely life-threatening, then it becomes clear that the ambulance service is doing a fantastic job, often in difficult circumstances."

Ambulance services are changing the way in which they respond to calls to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate treatment as quickly as possible. The traditional response of sending a two-person ambulance to all calls was inefficient, did not always help all patients in the most appropriate way and could mean that when an ambulance was required for a patient with a life-threatening condition, none was available.

For some patients the best response will be telephone advice, given by a doctor, nurse or paramedic based in the ambulance control room, or referral to another health or social care agency. For those who need to be seen face to face the response will vary according to the assessment that has been made over the telephone. If the patient is assessed as potentially having an immediately life-threatening condition the nearest available response will be despatched. That may be a conventional ambulance with a two person crew - or it may be a rapid response car with either a paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT).

If a rapid responder is sent, a traditional ambulance will also be despatched in case additional support or transport is needed. The conventional ambulance would be stepped down if the rapid responder on arriving at the scene feels that the ambulance is no longer required. When this happens it leaves the conventional ambulances free to deal with more serious issues.

All ambulance responders sent are highly qualified clinical staff who have undertaken national training programmes as either EMTs or paramedics. This new approach to responding has been shown to be more effective with more of the patients with life-threatening conditions being reached more quickly and patients with less serious conditions being offered treatment that is more appropriate, often without the need for a time consuming and frustrating trip to hospital.

Notes to editors
Ken Wenman, Chief Executive of South Western Ambulance Service and ASA Board Member is available for interviews - contact 01392 261501 or

Contact Information