HC Deb 15 December 1998 vol 322 c743
1. Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell)

If he will make a statement on ambulance response times in Cornwall. [62442]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Hutton)

Ambulance response times in Cornwall improved in 1997–98. The percentage of 999 calls reached within 19 minutes rose by more than 1 per cent. despite a 1.5 per cent. rise in the number of ambulance callouts.

Mr. Taylor

The Minister did not say, however, that the response times were very much below those in the citizens charter for health standards. Anyone calling an ambulance in Cornwall stands a very high chance of it taking well over the response time in the citizens charter. Is that not because there is no proper funding for ambulance services in rural areas to take account of the obvious extra difficulties in reaching patients quickly? Does that not result in patients' lives being put at risk?

Mr. Hutton

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not feel able to join me in congratulating NHS staff in Cornwall on achieving the improvements in response times to which I have referred. We are aware of the difficulties and officials in the NHS regional office are working closely with the health authority and the ambulance service in Cornwall to see what further action can be taken to improve response times. The hon. Gentleman mentioned resources. The changes introduced to the weighted capitation formula for 1998–99 include a geographical cost adjustment for emergency ambulance services which benefited Cornwall health authority by more than £1 million.

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