A Northumberland MP has called for more ambulances to be based in the North of the county to cut out long waiting times for residents.
Sir Alan Beith, member for Berwick, has called for at least one additional ambulance to serve the area following a number of cases of constituents in emergency situations having lengthy waits for vehicles.
The MP raised concerns in the House of Commons over whether serious cases from the North of the county would get paramedic treatment and be transported to a new emergency care hospital 60 miles south within the target time of an hour.
The ambulance service last night said provision of new vehicles would be a matter for health commissioners, saying it could only redeploy them from elsewhere to increase cover at Berwick.
The Journal reported in March on three cases in the Berwick area in which people in emergency situations faced lengthy waits for ambulances, all of which travelled from afar due to unavailability of vehicles at the town’s station.
Conservative parliamentary candidate for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, took up the case of Jack Penman, 10, from Norham, who had to wait an hour and 10 minutes for a vehicle to come from Amble despite suffering suspected meningitis.
Now Liberal Democrat Sir Alan has taken the matter up in the Commons, having also raised concerns with the chief executives of the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which is building the new specialist emergency care hospital at Cramlington.
Speaking in the house, he said: “The new specialist emergency hospital is nearly 60 miles from Berwick.
“Given the serious delays in ambulance attendance in recent cases in Northumbria, how can we be sure that serious cases will get paramedic attendance and delivery to the hospital within the critical hour?”
Health Minister Norman Lamb replied: “My right honourable friend is right to raise concern.
“The North East ambulance service has traditionally been a good performer, but any deterioration that has been identified needs to be addressed very speedily.
“I urge him to monitor this closely, and if he wants to talk about it further with me, I will be happy to do so.”
After the debate, Sir Alan added: “It is very difficult to see how adequate response times can be guaranteed unless at least one additional emergency ambulance can be stationed in north Northumberland.”
A spokeswoman for NEAS said: “As the name suggests, the North East Ambulance Service provides cover for the whole of the North East, and only has a finite number of vehicles. We strategically spread these around the region to maximise our response times to patients.
“The national target for all UK ambulance services is to reach 75% of the most serious emergencies within eight minutes.
“On Tuesday this week, NEAS reached 86.3% of emergencies in Northumberland within that time limit.
“On the same day, we reached 86% of non-life threatening calls in 30 minutes or less.
“Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, it’s impossible to guarantee eight-minute responses 100% of the time.”
The spokeswoman said the provision of new vehicles for the Berwick area would be a matter for those who commission health services in the region.
The service could only provide extra vehicles at Berwick by redeploying ambulances from elsewhere in the region, she added.