There's something of a mystery surrounding the Ambulance Service's comments to the media following the Audlem Online report ten days ago on the 70-minute wait for an emergency ambulance by a very ill local resident. The sick man and his wife waiting for the ambulance were given the 70-minute figure by the ambulance crew – and it co-incided with their own timing. How then does the ambulance service come up with 59 minutes, and the precise times of the call and arrival at the caller's address, when responding to media questions?
Perhaps we are being over-suspicious, but 59 minutes! We said last week that doubtless there's a 60-minute target somewhere that has to be met! There again, it may be that whoever designed the computer system for the ambulance service's record keeping system, never dreamt an emergency call in a prosperous First World county like Cheshire would take over an hour – so '59' was the maximum figure their computer would accept!
If any of these suspicions are correct – and how do you explain the 11 minute difference between the crew's version on the night and Ambulance HQ's records – then it casts a shadow over the whole concept of 'targets'. They seem to be the obsession of every public service but, unless they are accurate, are just not worth keeping or publishing.
What is beyond argument is that the ambulance came from Widnes. Now that town may have made have made a significant contribution to world culture as the place were Paul Simon composed 'Homeward Bound' while stuck on Widnes station – it later turned out to be the number that put Simon & Garfunkel on their way to glory. But it's not the place an emergency ambulance to Audlem should be setting out from – it's over an hour away. Neither did the ambulance in question divert to another call as the ambulance service claim. It would always take an ambulance that long to travel that distance.
Audlem Parish Councillors say they want some answers. One councillor has been checking on the ambulance cover locally in recent days and is worried by what he hears. Cover in the Crewe/Leighton Hospital area seems very thin and at least one ambulance has been diverted as cover to North Staffordshire. He wants to raise the issue with other parish councils in South Cheshire as the recent incident was a warning that fortunately, but no thanks to the ambulance service, did not have fatal consequences. Perhaps it just shows what can happen when services become too regionalised. Maybe it's a timely wake up call to get the ambulance service local once more and to get the service local residents pay for.
Step one will be to invite a senior officer from the ambulance service to the next Community Action Meeting in Audlem. The journey alone for that officer may be a reminder of what a big county Cheshire is – particularly if you live in its most southerly village.
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