08:00 Tuesday 11 December 2012

'Patients die as ambulance service fails', says ex-chief

Written byADRIAN JENKINS

THREE lives a month are being lost due to a dramatic deterioration of Staffordshire’s ambulance service, its ex-boss claims.

Ambulance genericRoger Thayne also says cardiac arrest victims stand less chance of surviving at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital - little more than one in 10 - than at five other regional hospitals.

In an email to sevenMPs, the former chief executive blames the performance slump on Staffordshire Ambulance Service’s amalgamation into WestMidlands Ambulance Service six years ago.

Mr Thayne says: “This has and will continue to mean that lives that previously would have been saved will be lost - an average of three permonth.” A patient’s chances of surviving a cardiac arrest were also ‘very dependent onwhich hospital you are taken to after you have been resuscitated’, he said.

According toMr Thayne’s analysis, Queen’s is the lowest performer in the regionwith 11.8 per cent (two patients from17), far belowt he much maligned, but top-rated, Mid- Staffordshire Hospital, in Stafford, which boasts 58.3 per cent (seven patients out of 12).

Mr Thayne says: “TheMP for Burton should be concerned at the unacceptable survival rates fromQueen’s.

“It was my experience that this low rate of survival has been the norm for many years andmay be related to survivors not being admitted to intensive care.”

Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, one of the MPs who received Mr Thayne’s email, is so concerned he is meeting WMAS chief executive Anthony Marsh tomorrow in a bid to seek ‘urgent guarantees’.

He has also written to Mr Marsh’s counterpart at Queen’s, Helen Ashley, in an effort to seek a similar meeting.

He said: “When the reorganisation of the ambulance service occurred,we were given lots of assurances about the quality of servicewe could expect in Burton.

“These revelations are extremely concerning and ask some serious questions about the safety of patients who are taken ill in Burton.

“Healthcare provision is the single most important issue for local people and we cannot have this questionmark about the safety of the ambulance service hanging over our heads.

“As soon as these issueswere brought to my attention I began to ask some very searching questions.

“We need guarantees as a matter of urgency.

“I want to meet both WMAS and Queen’s tomake sure we are getting the service we deserve.”

Mr Thayne also makes the following shocking claims after comparing performance in 2005-06 with 2011-12 for Staffordshire as a whole:

*Cardiac arrest - resuscitation attempts down 36 per cent (841 to 540), survivors to hospital down 51 per cent (226 to 110), and survivors to discharge fromhospital down 52 per cent (67 to 32);

*Heart attacks identified down 28 per cent (300 to 218), those receiving appropriate care down 44 per cent (268 to 150);

*Response times to life-threatening emergencies down across the board;

*Cost of the service in Staffordshire up at least 50 per cent since 2006 to £35 million a year;

*A reduction from 50 per cent to 33 per cent has led to an increase in emergency transports of 48,000 patients a year at a cost of £4.8million;

*Productivity down 27 per cent from 0.56 to 0.41.

Mr Thayne blames the deterioration in performance on a range of clinical and management decisions.

He says: “Action needs to be takenwith some haste as lives continue to be at risk.”

Mr Thayne even goes as far as to suggest that MPs consider raising the alleged failure tomaintain standardswith the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Mr Griffiths said: “Roger is passionate about ensuring the best possible ambulance service and it’s difficult to disagree when hard evidence like this is being presented.

“We are lucky he is paying attention.”

BOSSES of Burton’s ambulance service have responded to Roger Thayne’s criticisms by insisting staff are working hard to provide ‘the highest standards of patient care’.

“During the seven years since Mr Thayne was chief executive, many developments have been implemented, including enormous improvements in clinical patient care,” a spokesman said.

“WMAS is recognised as one of the best performing NHS trusts in the UK and was recently awarded ambulance service of the year for the fifth year running.

“Since Staffordshire Ambulance Service was amalgamated into WMAS in 2007, the trust has made significant investments in the county:

*WMAS has rolled out ‘Make Ready’ using the Staffordshire model. This ensures ambulances are cleaned and made ready by specialist teams rather than ambulance crews;

*Staffordshire is home to the Midlands Air Ambulance, based at Tatenhill since 2008;

*WMAS opened a new state-of-the-art emergency operation centre in Stafford to receive 999 calls and deploy ambulance vehicles;

*WMAS provides an integrated service as part of the cardiac, stroke and major trauma networks; *WMAS has retained the Lucas device in Staffordshire (automatically compression and active decompression resuscitator) for the treatment of cardiac arrests;

*WMAS has retained experienced management and personnel in Staffordshire

*WMAS has increased emergency vehicles and has one of the newest ambulance fleets in the country;

*WMAS has treated more patients in Staffordshire than at any previous time; *WMAS continues to encourage, support and expand the excellent volunteer community first responders scheme in the county.”

WMAS chief executive Anthony Marsh said: “I can reassure the people that our staff are working really hard to continue to provide the very highest standards of patient care, using the latest developments in clinical and prehospital medical care.”

THE boss of Burton’s Queen’sHospital has declined to respond to Roger Thayne’s criticisms.

Helen Ashley, chief executive of Burton Hospitals NHS Foundtion Trust, which runs the Belvedere Road hospital,would only offer a comment saying ‘no comment’.

“The trust has not received any direct communication from Mr Thayne in respect of these matters,” she said.

“Therefore, we are unable to comment on the claims beingmade.” The chief executive response came after the Mail sent Queen’s a copy of Mr Thayne’s email and covering message.

It also emerged after Burton’s MP, Andrew Griffiths, sent the Mail a copy of a letter in which he asks Ms Ashley for a meeting to discuss Mr Thayne’s claims.

In his letter, dated Thursday, December 6, the Tory says: “I am sure you would agree that these are very worrying statistics, and I would be grateful if we could have ameeting to discuss this concerning issue.” T

he Mail initially asked Queen’s for a response to Mr Thayne’s comments on Friday, only to be told that senior managers were involved in interviewing a new chairman.

The hospital’s ruling trust is currently battling to improve services andmeet a growing demand for themwhile cutting its budgets to help theNHS save £20 billion pounds.

Bosses, including Ms Ashley, have always insisted that any changes to the way Queen’s operates will not be implemented at the expense of patient safety.

Watchdogs are continuing to monitor progress.

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