Another ambulance takes an hour to arrive in an emergency

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Late last year there was much discussion on Audlem Online and in local newspapers when a 999 emergency call from an Audlem resident, in desperate need of an ambulance, resulted in a 70 minute wait as the ambulance travelled from Widnes, over forty miles away.

Another serious issue has now been reported to Audlem Online. On 24th December 2006, an 8 year-old boy suddenly collapsed and went blue around the mouth. The call was made for an ambulance which eventually turned up approximately one hour from making the call. To ensure the ambulance found them easily, friends of the boy's family stood at the gate waiting for the vehicle to arrive. Eventually it came into sight with no blue lights flashing and travelling at a relatively slow speed in the circumstances.

On arrival questions were asked as to why the ambulance had taken so long. A crew member's response was they thought the call-out was for an eighty year old! Clearly it's no longer safe to be elderly and needing an ambulance in a hurry. The ambulance had also travelled a long way — this time from the other side of Winsford.

There were no complaints about the service then provided by the crew. It was they who suggested the parents complain about the time it took to respond to an emergency call. Fortunately, the boy involved has made a full recovery. It could, however, have been a fatal delay, particularly if it had been an 80 year-old, as the crew had been told, suffering from a heart attack, for example.

We have had reports of ambulances arriving in Audlem within a reasonable time since our initial story about the 70-minute wait. But, after all the publicity surrounding that incident, it is staggering that another serious delay should happen so soon. Why, we ask, are ambulances travelling from Winsford or Widnes? With regionalisation now introduced, and the service now calling itself the North West Ambulance Service, ambulances could soon be dispatched to Audlem from Wigan or even Windermere!

Audlem Parish Council is writing to the ambulance service seeking an explanation. However, as the local press were misled last time when the 70-minute response given by their own crew was claimed by Ambulance HQ to be 'only' 59 minutes, and they gave exact times to support their claim, we hope any response will be more trustworthy than last time.

An Audlem Parish Councillor, who has checked on the availability of ambulances in the past month or so, and has been told unofficially that at times there is only one vehicle covering South Cheshire — sometimes it appears the already minimal cover in the Crewe area is diverted to support North Staffordshire — is also to check with other local parish councils to see if they are suffering similar problems to Audlem.

A letter to the Chronicle this week from a member of the Fire Service says: "Whenever the Government speaks of regionalisation and modernisation, these words should be replaced by the word cuts". It appears that might just sum up the situation with our ambulance service following its regionalisation. The Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council leader has said he is taking up the problems of the local ambulance service as he has discovered the borough has the third worst ambulance response times in the country.

Perhaps all our local politicians, our MP, borough and parish councillors, should now all put pressure on the ambulance service. A first step might be to force the management of the North West Ambulance Service to attend Audlem's Community Action Meeting in February to explain their failures of recent weeks to Audlem residents.