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Deaths due to Ambulance Delays

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    An estimated 2,500 lives a year are being lost due to a “postcode lottery” in how ambulances are responding to heart attack patients

    By Rosie Hodgetts

Roger Thayne, former Chief Executive of the Staffordshire Ambulance Service has advised the BBC that potentially around 2,500 lives a year are being lost as a result of delayed ambulance response times and the inability to resuscitate patients at the scene.

Data obtained by the BBC shows substantial variations in the performance of England’s 12 ambulance services.

Once an adjustment has been made for population figures, it becomes apparent that the top ambulance service may be attempting to resuscitate 3.5 times as many heart attack patients as the ambulance service at the bottom of the table.


The statistics that have been published show survival rates for heart attack patients for each ambulance service. From this, it would appear that South Central Ambulance Service who are at the top of the table are performing significantly better than South Western Ambulance Service who are at the bottom as their survival rate is 41% compared with 25%.

However, these figures do not take into account the number of resuscitations that are being attempted in each area. When this is considered, it becomes apparent that South Western Ambulance Service are attempting many more resuscitations than South Central Ambulance Service (848 people per million head of population compared with 234) but why is there such a difference in the number of resuscitations attempted?

Whilst there is no clear indication as to the reasoning for this discrepancy, it has been suggested by Mr Thayne that it could be as a result of slow response times or even the lack of availability of defibrillators.

Whilst there are a number of uncertainties as to the data, it seems that there is a difference around the country in how patients are being treated and their outcome.


Whilst Mr Thayne has called for an urgent inquiry into this issue, there seems to be no immediate solution and as though the “postcode lottery” for now at least will continue.

As clinical negligence solicitors we regularly advise families who have tragically lost a loved one through failures within the ambulance service.

We are pleased that this issue of differing levels of ambulance service across the country is being looked in to and hope that over time it will lead to a reduction in the number of deaths due to ambulance delays if key issues can be identified and addressed.

If you or a family member has been affected by delays in ambulance response times or an inability to perform a correct medical procedure, please contact the Clinical Negligence Team who can advise you on any potential claim and discuss you and your family’s concern.

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  1. Pingback: A bleak start to 2015 for Accident and Emergency departments - Clinical Negligence Team

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