1 May 2022
Letter from Westminster – May 2022 Ambulance Response Times

I know there has been considerable concern locally about delays to ambulance responses to emergency calls from South Shropshire. I assure you I am also very anxious about ambulance response times.

West Midlands Ambulance Service do acknowledge ambulance response times are not at all near to where they need to be for Shropshire. From their own statistics which I have requested and seen, the reason behind this is clear - the issue has been exacerbated by long delays to handovers at hospital, which prevents crews from getting back out on the road.

This has been building since last July when many covid restrictions were lifted. I have been engaging with WMAS and NHS leaders in Shropshire more frequently than usual since then, and have met WMAS senior leaders, most recently in January, March and April, to discuss response times across South Shropshire. I have also raised specific cases where constituents have suffered very lengthy delays for ambulances (mostly in non life-threatening emergencies, it must be stressed).
Following my conversations with the WMAS Chief Executive, I am calling on Shropshire CCG for more support to recruit and train more ambulance crews, so we can put more ambulances on the road in Shropshire, while patients wait to be handed over at hospitals. I am also engaging with our acute hospitals, to ensure they do all they can to speed up handovers, to return as soon as possible to the efficiency they have managed previously.
Having been out on shifts with WMAS ambulances, I know they move directly from call to call, with around half of their attendances in Shropshire currently leading to conveyance of a patient to hospital. Crews start and end their day in an ambulance hub to collect and return their vehicle, but are otherwise on the road attending calls. So a return to localised hubs won't fix this issue. But I am also working with WMAS to encourage more community first responders. 

Community First Responders act as a rapid first point of contact in emergencies, before an ambulance can arrive. They are trained by WMAS to provide basic lifesaving care, and work as volunteers in the community around their schedules. In incidences of cardiac arrest, CFRs and members of the public trained in CPR and the use of the defibrillators in the community can be the difference between life and death, particularly in rural locations, as after a cardiac arrest, for every minute that no-one is doing CPR, the chance of survival drops by 10%.

When I spoke to the Chief Executive of WMAS in March, I raised my concern that there were no live adverts to recruit Community First Responders in the West Midlands. He put this right rapidly, and applications for the next course went live the next day. If you or anyone you know are interested, please visit www.jobs.nhs.uk and search for “WMAS”.

I also suggested a programme of engagement by WMAS with the public in South Shropshire. So at my request WMAS arranged for staff to be on hand at Ludlow Market Square on Saturday 23rd April, to exhibit their vehicles and answer questions from the public about the process of joining as a Community First Responder. I was really pleased with the response from WMAS and the public, so will be looking to repeat this pilot in other towns in South Shropshire.
I shall continue to work with WMAS and SaTH to do all I can to see ambulance response times improve in South Shropshire.