The head of the region’s ambulance service said “it rots me to my core” when asked about how he felt about patients suffering long delays as paramedics faced severe winter pressures over the festive season.
Robert Morton, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, was giving television interviews for the first time since the ambulance delays hit the headlines.
A House of Commons debate this month heard suggestions up to 81 patients may have died due to ambulance delays in the east of England over a three week period.
However, while Mr Morton disputed those figures, he also said it was “clearly unacceptable” for patients to face long waits and that thorough investigations were taking place.
In one interview, he said: “At this stage we have no reason to believe that any patient died as a consequence of a delayed ambulance response but we have to acknowledge they have had a dreadful experience.”
When asked how he felt about the long waits some patients have faced, he said: “It rots me to my core quite frankly, and as a paramedic I can only begin to imagine how my colleagues feel having to turn up to somebody who has been waiting for 10, 12, 14 hours for a vehicle, and perhaps getting to somebody and then realising that there’s nothing that they can do.”
He said quicker handover times at hospitals were one of the keys to combatting delays.
“If you have got one third of your ambulances parked in a car park they are not going to be responding to patients in the community. I’m not saying it is anybody’s fault, we need to work together to resolve the issues that we all have.”
In a separate interview, Mr Morton gave a more detailed response to suggestions that about 80 people may have died as a result of ambulance delays.
He said: “That does not tally with the numbers that we have…what we’ve discovered out of over 90,000 patient responses, we have examined 138 cases where patients experienced a significantly delayed response, from that number we’ve identified 22 patients who we believe may have been exposed to a delayed response which may have caused harm, so those are the 22 cases that we are conducting a full and thorough investigation in, so the 80 cases do not basically tally with the numbers we have.”