A recent analysis conducted by the Liberal Democrats has uncovered a disturbing trend in the frequency of ambulance breakdowns. The study indicates that these breakdowns have surged by nearly 40 percent over the past five years, raising concerns about patient safety and the efficiency of emergency services.
Escalating Breakdown Incidents:
According to information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the data reveals a significant escalation in ambulance breakdown incidents. In 2018, there were 5,159 reported ambulance breakdowns in England, a number that has steadily risen each year to reach a staggering 7,060 in 2022. This equates to an average of 19 breakdowns occurring each day during the past year.
Lib Dems’ Concerns:
Daisy Cooper, the health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, voiced her apprehensions about these figures. She highlighted that these statistics underscore the deteriorating condition of the National Health Service (NHS) under the Conservatives’ governance. Cooper’s statement suggests a growing concern for patients who might be left stranded in pain due to the inadequacy of ambulance services.
Transparency in Data Collection:
The Liberal Democrats reached out to 11 NHS trusts, seeking information regarding ambulance breakdowns. Six of these trusts responded, providing the data needed for the analysis. Among the trusts that shared details about ambulance age, a total of six confirmed the use of ambulances aged over 12 years. Notably, approximately 250 ambulances in these trusts were found to be more than a decade old.
Focus on London Ambulance Service:
The London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, while having the most ambulances in comparison to the other contributing trusts, was found to have an ambulance that was 14 years old. This trust was also accountable for a significant number of breakdowns, totaling 3,800 in 2022.
In response to the analysis, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care criticized the data as misleading and outdated. The department asserted that despite the reported breakdowns, the latest data indicates improved ambulance response times, even in the face of record A&E attendances and demand.
Investment and Improvements:
Rakesh Patel, the chief finance officer and lead for fleet at the London Ambulance Service, emphasized ongoing efforts to modernize and enhance their fleet. With a focus on sustainability, the service plans to introduce 128 new ambulances, 65 hybrid response cars, 44 all-electric vehicles, and three all-electric motorbikes. The aim is to address the strain on the service caused by the high number of vehicles and subsequently reduce breakdown incidents.
The findings of the Liberal Democrats’ analysis shed light on a critical issue plaguing the emergency medical services. The increase in ambulance breakdowns over the past five years presents a substantial challenge to patient care and public safety. While the government and healthcare organizations are taking steps to address the issue, sustained efforts will be crucial to ensure that ambulance services remain reliable and efficient.