‘Think twice’ say ambulance bosses

North West Ambulance Service.
North West Ambulance Service.

The North West Ambulance Service is urging people to think twice before they dial 999 after seeing its busiest ever week since its formation in 2006.

The trust reported just short of 9,000 life-threatening or potentially life-threatening incidents and compared to last year’s year to date figure at this time:

l999 calls are up 5.9 per cent

lAll incidents attended are up 5.29 per cent

lLife-threatening or potentially life-threatening cases are up 9.4 per cent

Last week alone saw:

lAn extra 2,152 calls – a 9.6 per cent increase or an extra 307 per day

lAn extra 1,137 red incidents - 14.5 per cent or 162 per day

NWAS’s call centre teams are taking and dispatching more 999 calls every day than they ever have before, and the trust is quickly moving to a daily 999 call volume of 4,000.

Director of operations, Derek Cartwright, said: “The call volume we are currently experiencing is unprecedented and our crews are working extremely hard to reach those who urgently need our help as quickly as possible.

“Because of the rise in activity, it is more important that we triage our calls thoroughly and there is no doubt that those without life-threatening or potentially life-threatening conditions will find themselves waiting sometime for an ambulance response or be advised to seek alternatives.”

Meanwhile, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that ambulance bosses are cutting services – but managers are driving around in luxury taxpayer-funded cars.

The request revealed the company car list for NWAS staff includes 26 Range Rover Evoques – with prices from £40,000 – 22 BMWs and 34 Audis.

In total 195 members of staff have a company car and in the past two years the trust has had lease contracts to a value of £1,922,444. Staff have paid contributions totalling £399,309 – meaning the trust has spent £1,523,135 on the leases.

It comes at a time when the trust is trying to make £14m in savings.

The ambulance service, which employs 4,973 staff, defended the vehicles saying their lease policy is allocated based on miles and a number of them have blue lights and sirens fitted.

A North West Ambulance spokesman said: “We recognise that lease vehicles will be required for private use as well as business use, so staff have a degree of choice of vehicle, although it is imperative that the types of vehicles procured through the scheme are compatible with a public sector organisation. Lease cars are provided on the basis that this is a more efficient way of managing travel costs in comparison to reimbursing an individual for business mileage and wear and tear on privately owned vehicles.”

Dia Chakravarty, political director at the Tax Payers Alliance, said: “Every penny of taxpayers’ money has to deliver value for money.

“It’s perfectly reasonably for some NHS employees to have lease cars, but there’s no reason they have to be expensive, top-of-the-range models when cheaper alternatives would do the job just as well.”