Ambulance Delays Threaten Lives

(Last Updated On: March 7, 2019)


How fast is your Ambulance Service?

Critically injured patients in rural areas are at risk due to the time it takes the ambulance service to reach them, a BBC investigation has found.

While a response should come in 6 to 8 minutes, some rural communities wait more than 20 minutes for 999 crews or trained members of the community to reach life-threatening cases.

Experts say delays could make the difference between life and death.

This is particularly the case for cardiac arrests where ‘every second counts’, the British Heart Foundation says, so it was ‘critical’ that expert help from the ambulance services arrived as quickly as possible.

BBC News has obtained the average response times for the most life-threatening callouts in more than 2,700 local communities across Britain, including cardiac arrests, major blood loss, seizures and women in the end stages of labour

Research has shown that if such patients are given all the treatment they need immediately, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation – an electric shock to restart the heart – about two-thirds can survive.

But every minute delay reduces survival by 10%.

Ambulance Service Responses

Ambulance bosses accepted some responses took longer than they should but said staff were working hard in ‘challenging circumstances’ due to the levels of demand and the remote nature of some locations, adding that ‘expert advice’ was provided over the phone until a response arrived.

Anthony Marsh, who chairs the UK Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, tells us, ‘Our staff are working flat out to deal with record number of 999 calls, to reach all patients as quickly as they can whether they live in rural or urban areas. Undoubtedly given the very rural nature of the majority of our country, there will be cases where we are longer to arrive than we would prefer.’

Other steps are being taken to improve the speed of responses, including police and fire crews being enlisted and trained to respond to calls, while the British Heart Foundation is working with ambulance services to map where defibrillators actually are – large numbers have been bought privately and are not registered on ambulance systems.

Torbay Times

The average response times by postcode for us in Torbay vary, with one area – TQ 4 – only just within the national average and another – TQ 5 – above it at 9m 34s.

To repeat the words of the British Heart Foundation, ‘every second counts’.

So do you have a story to tell us about your experience of local ambulance service times? If you do, please call – free – on 08000 520 029. You can also email or simply pop into Healthwatch Torbay’s weekday offices in Paignton Library.


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Apart from five years studying in Oxford I’ve lived most of my life in London where for many years I was Head of English in a prestigious girls’ school, but since taking early retirement and heading West to be nearer to my two daughters - settling in Torbay with my wife, Anna, in 2011 - I’ve worked in the voluntary sector. I took on the role of Service Provider, for example, promoting the Red Cross Torbay Navigators Project, while now I’m a Trustee and part of the Media Team for our local Healthwatch. I’m a governor at Torquay Academy, too, giving me the chance to stay up to date with what’s happening in the world of education. Other interests, aside from friends and family, include art and art history, reading - from contemporary fiction and poetry to Elizabethan/Jacobean literature - history, politics, cooking, walking, and music, in particular Bob Dylan, the blues, and early Elvis. I love writing, too, with one novel published so far – Elvis in Wonderland – and another, Who’s There?, that still needs plenty of work!