Mad Friday reveals last year 900,000 ambulance calls answered without paramedics

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GMB investigation on ‘Mad Friday’ reveals 900,000 ambulance emergency calls were answered without paramedics last year.

Information from GMB has exposed the critical shortage of ambulance staff as a result of government policy has resulted in almost one million ambiance calls responded to without trained  paramedics. As a result of austerity, lack of investment in public services, stress to public sector employees, pay-caps, and moves to privatise the NHS, evidence shows service levels are unsafe and wholly inadequate.

Police forced to take patients to hospital due to shortages in more than 1,000 incidents of 999 ambulance calls

On the day dubbed ‘Mad Friday’, an investigation by GMB, the union for ambulance staff, reveals at least 900,000 emergency calls for ambulances were not attended by a paramedic in England last year.

And in more than 1,000 confirmed cases trusts were forced to ask the police to take injured patients to hospital due to ambulance shortages. The real figure is likely to be as high as 5,000.

‘Mad Friday’ – the last Friday before Christmas – is one of the busiest days of the year for amulance staff as many people celebrate finishing work for the festive period.

GMB submitted a freedom of information (FoI) request to all 10 ambulance trusts in England asking: ‘How many 999 calls to your trust were attended only by emergency care assistants, or other non-fully qualified paramedics rather than with a fully-qualified paramedic in the financial year 2016/17?’

The nine responding trusts disclosed that there were a total of 882,465 incidents last year.

However, the true figure is likely to be significantly higher as East of England Ambulance Services refused to respond, claiming it would take them too long to find the information.

South East Coast Ambulance Service had the highest number of non-paramedic responses with 190,813 incidents.

North East ambulance service’s response revealed 155,902 incidents, of which 650 were in response to the most life-threatening ‘Red One’ calls.

The trust also revealed 887 incidents where the police took patients to hospital due to a shortage of ambulance staff.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said:

“It will send shockwaves through the country that hundreds of thousands of patients, some of them involved in life-threatening incidents, are not being attended by a trained paramedic.

“Proper support for our overstretched ambulance services is literally a matter of life and death.

“GMB members are performing miracles every day but the system is failing because funding just hasn’t kept pace with demand.

“Paramedics and other ambulance staff regularly work 12-hour shifts or longer. They have no more to give.

“This must be a wake-up call for Jeremy Hunt.

“It is vital that our ambulance services are given the additional resources they desperately need.”

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National Officer for Ambulance Staff, said:

“How many people will die this Christmas because the Chancellor refuses to properly fund our ambulance services?

“Is anyone in this Government prepared to apologise to the patients given inadequate care by over stretched and under-trained staff?

“Is anyone in this Government prepared to apologise to the families of those who die because of staff shortages? I bet not.”

[1] Results of GMB Freedom of Information Request to NHS Ambulance Trusts in England:

[2] The National Audit Office found in January 2017 that in the 2010 – 2015 Parliament funding for ambulance services rose by 16 per cent but demand rose by 30 per cent:“Increased funding for urgent and emergency activity has not matched rising demand, and future settlements are likely to be tougher. Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, income for ambulance trusts’ urgent and emergency care activity increased by 16% from £1.53 billion to £1.78 billion. Over this period, activity (ambulance calls and NHS 111 transfers) rose by 30%. Commissioners have warned that, given current financial challenges in the wider health service, future funding settlements are likely to be tighter (paragraph 1.12).”National Audit Office, NHS Ambulance Services, 26 January 2017, page 7: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/nhs-ambulance-services/