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The plan is to change maximum waiting times for certain patients – ‘Red 2’, the second most serious category – from eight minutes to 19. It would come into operation after the general election next year. Tories providing themselves with ammunition to attack a future Labour government, perhaps?
Labour, having discovered the plan in a leaked document from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, rightly wants to know why Jeremy Hunt didn’t mention it to Parliament when he appeared there after signing it off.
Being based in Wales, Vox Political would like to ask how David Cameron feels about the proposals, as they constitute an admission that ambulances in England can’t get to patients any faster than those in Wales that he likes to criticise so harshly in Prime Minister’s Questions.
There is concern that there has been no consultation on the plans and no public involvement. Paramedics, who say response times distort their ability to function because they are always chasing the clock, have responded by saying some of the patients affected – such as stroke victims – should be moved up a category to avoid the longer waits.
But there is a bigger concern.
Ambulance crews in England had to deal with 8.5 million emergency calls during the 2013-14 financial year – around 16 calls every single minute.
Taking into account the time it takes to arrive at an emergency and return either to base or to hospital with a patient (depending on the nature of the emergency) it seems clear that we have a service which is under-staffed and under-resourced.
Meanwhile we have a Conservative and Liberal Democrat government that has been hiding the true extent of unemployment while ensuring that the richest people in the UK are now twice as rich as they were in 2009 – and even then, they couldn’t have spent all their money within their own lifetimes.
The answer is obvious: Bring in progressive tax and National Insurance rates to pay for some of the unemployed to train as paramedics, and for the ambulances and equipment they would then need to use.
There is plenty of money in the UK and therefore no reason not to provide the NHS with the tools to do the job.
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