999 alert over response times

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CRITICISM ABOUT Yorkshire Ambulance Service’s response times to emergencies does need to be placed in wider context. The NHS Trust covers a population of five million people and handles an average of 2,180 emergency calls every day of the year. The challenges do not end here – the task of deploying crews to congested city centres or the remotest of rural locations is far greater here than elsewhere, and it would be churlish not to acknowledge this.

That said, critics are right to be perturbed about the steady rise in the number of potentially life-threatening incidents where it is taking an hour, or longer, for paramedics to reach the victim when the Government’s recommended target for so-called ‘Red 2’ cases is just eight minutes. Though this is just a tiny fraction of the total number of calls, it does not inspire confidence when a speedy response is critical to the ability of stroke victims, for example, to make a recovery or not.

By its own admission, the Trust admits that it is struggling to answer some ‘Green 1’ calls – serious, but not life-threatening – within the prescribed 20 minutes and is now looking to draft in back-up cover from the St John Ambulance charity.

In many respects, it is caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. For, at a time of financial restraint, it is having to deal with a 19 per cent increase in callouts this year. Very few public sector organisations would successfully manage to maintain standards – and expectations – in such circumstances.

Yes, it is critical that Yorkshire Ambulance Service improves its performance – every second counts in a medical emergency – but these figures are another reminder to Ministers about the need to overhaul out-of-hours care. If more GPs were available in the evenings, and at weekends, ambulance services – and hospital A&E units – would not be at breaking point.

Economy emerges from slump

DAVID Cameron appears vindicated by the official confirmation that Britain’s economy has passed its pre-recession peak. He says the GDP figures justify his decision to curtail public spending in the face of opposition from Labour and the trade unions.

Despite the protestations of Ed Balls, the combative Shadow Chancellor, there is little evidence to suggest that Britain would have fared better if Labour had continued its spending free-for-all after the 2010 election. Quite the opposite – there is every likelihood that the country’s finances would still be precariously placed.

Yet the Prime Minister needs to caution against over optimism. Britain’s return to prosperity

has not yet reached those hardworking

families across Yorkshire who have seen their living standards squeezed, a difficulty that Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, acknowledges in today’s newspaper.

This will take time – and the great unknown is whether any rise in household incomes will be sufficient to see David Cameron returned to Downing Street next May. It will be a close call, even though the electorate is still very sceptical about Labour’s approach.

It also depends on the ability of the Conservatives to make electoral headway in those Yorkshire towns and cities where support has ebbed away since the high-water mark of Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 win.

Again, this will not happen overnight. These are votes which will only be won back with a relentless focus on jobs – and a political realisation that Yorkshire’s recovery is only just beginning.

Tories poised to make fresh start

THERE will be some disappointment that Conservatives in Thirsk and Malton have chosen to replace Anne McIntosh,

the party’s only female

MP in Yorkshire and the North East, with a male candidate. The move will not help the Tories to become more representative of society.

However, the immediate priority is healing the internal wounds that led to the rancourous de-selection of Miss McIntosh, chairman of Parliament’s environment select committee, after a breakdown in the working relationship between the MP and her executive.

At least party members have had the wisdom to select 50-year-old local businessman Kevin Hollinrake, who is already well-acquainted with the challenges facing North Yorkshire’s rural economy rather than run the risk of a Boris Johnson-like candidate being imposed on the area. The main parties are crying out for prospective MPs who are steeped in Yorkshire life and have extensive business experience. Mr Hollinrake’s candidature ticks both of these important boxes.