Seventy minute wait for emergency ambulance hits the headlines

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The story of a 'violently ill' Audlem man's seventy minute wait for an ambulance, reported on Audlem Online on Friday, is the front page lead story in today's Evening Sentinel. The story tells how the ambulance travelled all the way from Widnes — yes, the Widnes that historically was part of Lancashire and is about forty miles away. For a call of this seriousness, the target response time is 8 minutes or for less critical cases, 18 minutes. Even classifying this an 18-minute call, the ambulance took virtually four times that to arrive in Audlem, although the ambulance service claims it arrived in 59 minutes — only three and a bit times as long as their target!

The Sentinel reports that community leaders in Audlem want an explanation. Parish councillor Mike Hill, who is pictured in the story, said: "It's unbelievable. I'm astounded. There is an ambulance station in Crewe yet it seems the crew that eventually turned up were from Widnes. We are going to follow it up as a community with the authorities because who is going to be the next soul to suffer like this. It must have been frightening."

Mike Hill says he is considering raising his concerns with the ambulance service and is prepared to involve local MPs if he is not satisfied with the response. The ambulance service will also be asked to attend future Community Action Meetings in Audlem. These meetings have been set up by the police but they and local people agreed at a recent meeting that the CAMs should tackle a range of local issues. The next meeting is tomorrow night at 7.00pm at St James' School.

The man involved in the incident, who doesn't want to be named, says his wife was told there was an ambulance two miles away when she first called the emergency service. But when she called back half an hour later the operator was unable to say when the paramedics would arrive. This continued through several more calls at 15-minute intervals until the ambulance arrived 1 hour and 10 minutes after the first call. The ambulance service's version of the timing is just a little suspicious at 59 minutes — doubtless there's a 60 minute target somewhere that has to be met!

The ambulance service responded to the Sentinel's enquiries by saying: "An ambulance was dispatched straight away to this incident but was diverted to a life threatening call. Other ambulances were also dealing with calls of a more serious nature and the nearest available ambulance was dispatched to the patient."

Which raises the critical questions of why the nearest available ambulance was in far off Widnes and why was it diverted when the Audlem call could well have been life threatening?