Demand for COBRA meeting as South East Coast Ambulance Service declares critical incident
The Guildford Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to convene an emergency COBRA meeting to solve the local ambulance crisis.
South East Coast Ambulance Service is now at the highest alert level (REAP Level 4), with response times now being measured in hours instead of minutes.
People across Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages are being forced to wait dangerously long for an ambulance to arrive, with the local NHS now even encouraging people not to dial 999. The problem impacts local hospitals such as the Royal Surrey.
Government Ministers have yet to respond to the national ambulance emergency which is affecting people across the region.
The special COBRA could bring together the heads of each ambulance service, paramedics, NHS and social care, leaders, primary care, public health leads and experts in emergencies.
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Guildford and Cranleigh, Zöe Franklin, said:
"Our area is gripped by a local health emergency yet the Government has offered no help whatsoever. Sadly too many people around here have terrible stories to tell about waiting hours on end for an ambulance, or worse still, giving up altogether for one to arrive. A COBRA meeting should be convened and representatives from South East Coast Ambulance Service invited to join.
"Local paramedics and NHS staff are at breaking point. Why won't Ministers step in to help? Ministers need to stop spending all their time talking about Conservative leadership candidates and actually do their job. Instead, people across Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages are being taken for granted again."
Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:
"It is now or never to save lives. With warnings of a heatwave emergency, the Government must convene a special COBRA meeting today and put in place a plan to support overstretched health and social care services. People can't wait any longer.
"It's simply appalling that we've heard more from Ministers about the Conservative party leadership contest than about a genuine national emergency. We've not heard a peep out of the Secretary of State for Health on ambulance services which are operating at the fringes of what is safe. It is time Conservative Ministers put country over party, starting today."
NOTES TO EDITORS
Letter from Liberal Democrats to Health Secretary demanding a COBRA meeting on ambulance crisis
Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street,
13th July 2022
Dear Secretary of State,
Our country is gripped by a health crisis.
Every ambulance service in mainland England is, once again, at the highest level of alert and response times are now being measured in hours instead of minutes.
Last Autumn, Liberal Democrats revealed through a Written Parliamentary Question that every ambulance service in England had been at the highest level of alert since October - some of them have been at this level continuously since then.
This simply cannot go on.
This week, many ambulances are queuing outside A&Es with patients left in extreme heat in the back, waiting for hours to be admitted to hospital. With temperatures predicted to rise this weekend and the MET office issuing an extreme weather warning, there are serious worries that this could have a severe impact on ambulance services and people's health.
People are dying before they are seen by a doctor. The public are losing faith that if they ring 999, they will receive emergency treatment in time.
A well-functioning ambulance service is not only vital for emergencies so that those who need immediate attention get life-saving care, but it is also key to the operations of hospitals, A&Es and care homes. Many elderly and vulnerable people rely on ambulances to transport them to hospital.
Sadly, this will be nothing new for so many who have been left waiting dangerously long for emergency care. There are harrowing stories from across the country, from people left stranded at their home for hours on end, to hospital car parks stacked full of ambulances with people in desperate need of emergency care.
I say it again: this cannot go on.
We need national leadership from you and your Government. However, we have seen nothing. In fact, I've seen more from you on the Conservative party leadership contest than on this ambulance crisis which threatens people's lives. That is truly shocking.
Will you now convene a COBRA meeting to get a grip on this crisis?
Dedicated and heroic paramedics are at breaking point and need urgent help from the Government. You must not leave them and patients relying on them, to suffer any longer.
We need to see joint health and care plans for likely social care emergencies, we need to mobilise primary care, such as GPs, to stabilise those at the highest risk of urgent hospital admission, and we need the NHS to use the first responders from the fire service.
We also need free covid tests to be reinstated for the general public immediately, so as to reduce the huge strain that this new wave is putting on our NHS and social care services.
I am shocked that the Government has had to be forced into making a statement to MPs on this crisis, rather than coming forward of their own volition. It is sadly telling that Conservative MPs have spent days discussing the future of their party, but have not uttered a single sentence on a genuine national health emergency.
Now is the time to step up to the plate: convene COBRA today and save patients and paramedics on the brink.
By bringing together the heads of each ambulance service, paramedics, NHS and social care, leaders, primary care, public health leads and experts in emergencies you can get a grip on this crisis.
I look forward to your reply.
Daisy Cooper MP
Member of Parliament for St. Albans
Health and Social Care Spokesperson