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Ambulance Trust Budgets

Volume 554: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2012

16. What assessment he has made of the possible effect on patient safety of reductions to ambulance trust budgets. (129950)

The budgets for individual ambulance trusts are set by local health care commissioners. In 2012-13, the budgets are increasing nationally by £2.5 billion. To ensure patient safety, ambulance trusts are required to meet national performance standards in respect of their response times.

Does the Minister share my concern that 100,000 more patients than two years ago wait more than half an hour to be transferred from ambulance to A and E? If so, how on earth can he justify making his top-down reorganisation of the NHS a priority rather than sorting out that appalling situation?

The priorities for local ambulance trusts and the funding allocations are set locally. The hon. Lady will be pleased that between 2010-11 and 2011-12, an additional £9 million was put into the front line of the ambulance service in her area to help address some of the problems she outlines. Under this Government, more money is going to the NHS than before and more money is going into local ambulance services—£2.5 billion nationally. We should contrast that with the approach taken by the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) on the Opposition Front Bench, who said that to increase spending to address those problems would be irresponsible.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), is my constituency neighbour. He will know that, although the East of England Ambulance trust is hitting its targets for the entire region, it is not helping in Suffolk. Will he advise on what more we can do locally to ensure that it serves all rural patients?

The problem has affected both Suffolk and Norfolk—the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), also takes an active interest in it. One problem was that the managers of the local ambulance trust were not listening to front-line staff on how to design and deliver services. In a staff survey, only 4% of front-line staff in the East of England Ambulance Service said they were being properly listened to, which is completely unacceptable. This Government, in contrast to the previous one, want to put front-line professionals in charge of running services, meaning that, in future, more patients will be properly prioritised and ambulance response times will be better met.

Order. These matters could be considered further in an Adjournment debate, which might be a suitable length for the subject.