HC Deb 23 February 1993 vol 219 cc756-7
9. Mr. Tony Lloyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information she routinely obtains about the ambulance service.

Mr. Sackville

Health authorities and national health service trusts provide annual returns on ambulance staff numbers, the number and nature of patient journeys and emergency response times, as well as a range of financial information.

Mr. Lloyd

Is it not a disgrace that we had to learn from a leaked document that ambulance stations—for instance, the Sharston ambulance station, which is the closest to Manchester airport—have been closed because of shortage of staff? I understand that the Minister had a recent meeting with the ambulance service in Greater Manchester. Did he receive from the people there a guarantee that all ambulance stations near the airport will be kept open to ensure that, in the event of a disaster, front-line services will be available?

Mr. Sackville

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that adequate arrangements will be made for Manchester airport. He should know that the real test of Greater Manchester's ambulance service is that it achieved a response rate of 97 per cent. of calls met within 14 minutes, making it one of the best ambulance services in the country.

Mr. Tracey

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the London ambulance service is getting £70 million in the current year and that one could conclude that the public are not getting a very good return for that investment? When will my hon. Friend do something positive to improve the disgraceful London ambulance service?

Mr. Sackville

My hon. Friend will know that the publication of a report of the London ambulance service is imminent. We believe that lessons will have been learnt from the events of late last year. We are confident that performance can be improved. As my hon. Friend has indicated, a large amount of money is spent on the LAS and there is no reason why it should not match performance in the rest of the country.

Ms. Lynne

Will the Minister now recognise that the ambulance service should be treated in the same way as the fire and police services by being given emergency-service status?

Mr. Sackville

The hon. Lady will be aware that there has been a transformation in the performance of ambulance services in this country. We are very lucky to have probably the most dedicated and professional ambulance personnel anywhere in the world and it is improving all the time. Soon a paramedic will be on every front-line ambulance. That is something of which we should all be proud.

Mr. Nigel Evans

Following the remarks that my hon. Friend has just made, may I ask whether the service is still on target in its intention to have one paramedic on every ambulance by 1995? We have talked about the importance of health services to rural areas. I represent a rural constituency. It is extremely important that the people there can be assured that all ambulances will have a paramedic on board by 1995 — earlier, if possible.

Mr. Sackville

I can provide the confirmation that my hon. Friend seeks. Recently I announced that the target date for a paramedic being on every front-line ambulance was being brought forward by one year—from 1996 to 1995—and that adequate funds would be made available for that purpose. Paramedic training has been one of the great success stories of the modern NHS.

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