We have introduced a range of contingency measures, such as the provision of military personnel, who are available to assist with the driving of ambulances, and community first responders, who can help before ambulances arrive on the scene.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking call handlers at the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust—and the public—for halving the number of 999 calls to the trust over the last month, and reducing average call answering times by 95%, to just three seconds? Will he also join me in expressing dismay at the approach taken by the Leader of the Opposition during the most recent session of Prime Minister’s Question Time in seeking to sow fear in the hearts of my constituents and others for his own narrow political gain?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the work of call handlers at the South Western Ambulance Service, and to the staff there as a whole. He is right to draw attention to the improved performance that we have seen in recent weeks, and also right to point out that all parts of the United Kingdom have faced considerable challenges, particularly over the Christmas period when we saw a significant spike in flu levels.
We have just heard in the Health and Social Care Committee that on strike days there was a drop in service demand, but also value added by the increased clinical support, resulting in better and more cost-effective decisions. Why does that happen on strike days rather than on every single day of the year?
We are taking a number of steps to improve performance, and not just on strike days—but I thought the hon. Lady was going to refer to the comment that she made about those on her own Front Bench, when she said:
“I think what our health team need to do is really spend more time in that environment with clinicians to really understand what drives them.”
We on this side of the House are spending a significant amount of time with clinicians, and it is important that those on the hon. Lady’s Front Bench do so as well.