Police concerns over ambulance delays

POLICE say they are repeatedly stepping in to take people to hospital when ambulances fail to arrive.

The Police Federation say delayed ambulances have become a concern in the East of England.

Officers claim delays or a lack of availability of ambulances have left them having to take people to hospital themselves.

The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) said it was working to improve its response times.

Although some members of the Essex Police Federation say officers were taking patients to hospital on a “daily basis”, the scale of the problem across the east of England remains unclear.

The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) said incidents of police taking patients to hospital because of late or unavailable ambulances are not logged – though references were made on call logs if a call-out is cancelled.

The service declined to answer a Freedom of Information request asking how often police were stepping in for ambulances, saying it would have “to look through each individual call record” to find out.

However, a spokesman for the service, which covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk and plans to save £50m over five years, said: “We recognise the need for back-up time improvements and have already revealed plans to address this by putting in place a raft of measures including 140 new frontline staff, better rotas and liaising with hospitals to reduce handover times.

“The official ambulance union Unison have been consulted throughout this process.”

The board of EEAS was told in November complaints about delays were a “key theme” of all complaints.

Of 144 complaints received in October 2012, 81 were about delays

Tony Hughes, regional organiser of the GMB union for ambulance staff, said he was aware of cases in which police officers had driven patients to hospital.

“It is about the ambulance service not having enough resources to met the number of calls,” he said. “It is unfair on the police officers.”

Essex Police said it did not know how often its own officers had driven patients to hospital.

A spokesman for the force said: “Ordinarily, officers should not carry civilian passengers to hospital in a police-owned vehicle.

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