For debate and decision.
To consider the report from the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee in response to the motion agreed by Council on 2 December 2015 relating to ambulance response times. This item was deferred from the last meeting.
Cllr Roger Wilson presented the report from the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee in response to the motion agreed by Council on 2 December 2015 relating to ambulance response times. This item had been deferred from the last meeting. Cllr Wilson was the chairman of the working group that had looked at this issue.
He noted that the work had been undertaken on a cross-party basis and the working group included members from both county and district councils. He thanked officers from the South Western Ambulance Service Trust, Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service for participating in the review. He made special mention of Andrea Clarke from Democratic Services for the support she had provided throughout the process.
Cllr Iain Dobie, Chairman of the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, stated that it was important to consider the report in the context of a national situation where no ambulance services across the country were meeting targets for response times. He believed that the Government was starving funding to health and social care which was leading to a national crisis. He noted that overall spending was going down in terms of the proportion of health spending to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Health expenditure was lower in the UK in comparison with most other countries.
A member believed that ambulance trusts throughout the country had become too large and bureaucratic. He said that a Gloucestershire based service would allow better collaboration between the emergency services and be more accountable to the public. He suggested that the County Council should put in a bid to run the ambulance service alongside Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, the mover of the original motion in December 2015, thanked the members of the working group for undertaking the review. He said that ambulance response times had a major impact on people’s lives and sometimes could literally be the difference between life and death. He recognised that a Gloucestershire based service was not viable at present but circumstances might change to allow it to be looked at again in future.
Cllr Tony Blackburn, the member for Hardwicke and Severn, raised concerns regarding response times for emergency services west of the Gloucester to Sharpness Canal. He noted that new automated crossings had recently been installed and he asked that arrangements for responding to emergencies be checked and tested.
A member referred to the problems caused to the ambulance service by delays in handing over patients at accident and emergency departments. Another member believed that an overhaul of the health service was urgently required to address reductions in funding and increasing demand.
Other members referred to the increases in Government funding for the NHS year on year and the opportunities for collaboration across the blue light services. They believed that some of the current difficulties had arisen because some people did not understand how to use the NHS and were calling for ambulances and going to emergency departments unnecessarily.
A member stated that he was supportive of ambulance vehicles being ‘branded’ for Gloucestershire but he was anxious that this did not result in scarce resources being diverted from elsewhere.
In summing up, Cllr Wilson explained that the way that the ambulance service was provided now was very different to the way that the service had been provided by the Gloucestershire Ambulance Service more than 10 years ago. He said that patients did not get into an ambulance for 50% of calls and were instead treated at home. He paid tribute to the South Western Ambulance Service Trust for their efforts to improve services in Gloucestershire.
Minor amendments to the recommendations from the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee are highlighted in shaded text below. The recommendations (as amended) received unanimous support from members.
RESOLVED that the following recommendations of the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee be endorsed:
This Council agrees that the establishment of a county-wide ambulance service is not viable at the moment and should not currently be progressed.
This Council supports the addition of the Gloucestershire Flag and name to SWASFT vehicles based in Gloucestershire and that the Leader and Chief Executive of the Council write to the Chair and Chief Executive of South Western Ambulance Service Trust, and the Chair and Accountable Officer of the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, and urge them to pursue this initiative, as long as it is not deemed costly to NHS finances.
This Council offers its full support to the Ambulance Response Programme in the expectation that it will deliver improved quality of care to the people of Gloucestershire.
This Council requires the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and the South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust to report to the Gloucestershire Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 7 March 2017 on the impact of the implementation of the Ambulance Response Programme.
The Leader and Chief Executive of Council write to the Chair and Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance NHS Trust, the Chair and Chief Executive of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, and the Chief Executive of NHS Wales, asking for information on how they are addressing the unavailability of double-crewed ambulances in the Newport and Chepstow areas, and the handover delays at the Royal Gwent Hospital; and when this Council can expect these issues to be resolved.
The Council asks the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to submit a report to the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the actions in place to address and reduce handover delays at the acute hospitals in Gloucestershire.
The working group recommend that this Council agrees:
This Council requests the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group keep the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee regularly updated on the progress of the redesign of primary and urgent services, and the planned location of the Urgent Care Centres when known.
The Leader and Chief Executive of the Council write to the Chair and Chief Executive of South Western Ambulance Service Trust to inform them that this council values paramedics and holds them in high regard; and recognises their important role in the delivery of quality patient care to the people of Gloucestershire.
This Council invites the Chief Executive of the South Western Ambulance Service Trust to undertake a presentation on the work of the ambulance service to all members of Council, and that this event is also open to members from the district councils in Gloucestershire.