Edinburgh ambulance crews miss targets for heart attack calls

One in four patients are waiting too long. Picture: Jane Barlow
One in four patients are waiting too long. Picture: Jane Barlow
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HEART attack victims in the Capital are having to wait longer than they should for an ambulance, new figures have revealed.

Emergency crews are meant to reach such patients within eight minutes and the official target is to do this on 75 per cent of occasions.

Miles Briggs.

Miles Briggs.

Figures released under a Freedom of Information request made by the Scottish Conservatives show that in South East division – covering Lothian and Borders – the proportion of cardiac arrest cases where an ambulance arrived in eight minutes was 72.62 per cent.

But ambulance bosses said a rise in the number of call-outs meant that they were reaching more cardiac patients within the eight-minute target and saving more patients’ lives.

The Evening News’ Shockingly Easy campaign for life-saving defibrillators in every sports venue across the Lothians was established in memory of Jamie Skinner, 13, who died after suffering a cardiac arrest on a Saughton football pitch in 2013.

The latest figures, obtained by the Tories, showed a wide variation in response-time performance over the year from a high of 82.35 per cent reached within eight minutes to a low of 59.55 per cent in December. The average 72.62 per cent was down from 77.51 per cent in 2014.

Miles Briggs, Conservative candidate for the Lothians at the Holyrood elections, said: “It’s alarming that performance on such a crucial issue is slipping. It’s well documented that the longer it takes for a heart attack patient to receive help, the worse their outcome is going to be.

“That’s why the eight-minute aspiration is in place, and that’s why it’s so critical it is met as often as possible.

“Paramedics do a tremendous job, but they need to be better supported to do their job by the Scottish Government.

“It’s vital this trend across the Lothians is turned around as a matter of urgency.”

“That is why I have strongly supported the Evening News Shockingly Easy campaign and back the aim to ensure that there is a life-saving defibrillator machine in every sports centre in the Lothians.”

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Ambulance crews responded to an increase of 475 cardiac cases in Scotland last year, reaching 199 more cardiac patients than the previous year within eight minutes.

“Our emergency teams are saving more patients who have suffered cardiac arrest than ever before, as shown by a 21 per cent improvement in resuscitation rates.”

He said 12 frontline staff would be recruited and trained for deployment in the Lothians this year to improve cover.

“Response times fluctuate throughout the year and are an important aspect of pre-hospital care, but the clinical expertise of ambulance teams is key to good patient outcomes and saving lives.

“They are monitored on an ongoing basis and are affected by a number of factors, including increases in demand, weather conditions, traffic congestion and turnaround times at hospitals.

“The service is committed to providing the best possible standards of care for patients in Scotland and training is focused on developing and improving resuscitation techniques.”

He said the ambulance service supported CPR training programmes and the introduction of public access defibrillators as part of the national Save a Life for Scotland campaign to improve survival rates for 
cardiac arrest.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com