IAA urgent call

Tuesday, 03 March, 2015

Lives could be put at risk if legislation currently going through Parliament is approved, according to The Independent Ambulance Association. Further pressure could be put on already-stretched NHS ambulance trusts if independent or voluntary providers are stopped from using driving exemptions like using blue lights, crossing white lines and exceeding speed limits.

The Independent Ambulance Association is appealing directly to the Prime Minister, NHS England and The Care Quality Commission to call for urgent revision of the Deregulation Bill. The IAA believes that Section 36 of the Bill, relating to changes to emergency driving, far from being deregulation, actually represents stealth legislation to stop a lawful  activity going on which saves lives every week.

Driving exemptions

The bill states that driving exemptions can only be used if the vehicle is providing a response to an emergency at the "request of an NHS ambulance service". That would prevent other independent or voluntary organisations being able to transport critical patients in the same manner as an NHS ambulance.
Thousands of patient journeys are done each day by independent providers for NHS hospitals. For example, In Bristol one IAA member is contracted by Intensive care medical teams at Bristol Children's Hospital to retrieve critically  ill babies and children from across the South West and Wales under  emergency conditions. In Cambridge, Addenbrookes hospital has contracted out blue light services to another IAA member.

"The NHS Ambulance Service does not hold a monopoly on the transport of the sick and injured. The Care Quality Commission regulates this and that lawfully includes private providers. Many private ambulance companies are contracted directly to hospitals through clinical commissioning groups (CCG's) to provide High Dependency and Critical Care (blue light) ambulance transport for inter-hospital transfers. This is not at the ‘request of an NHS Ambulance Trust' so they too would lose the exemptions. That means thousands of emergency journeys each year would have to be re-tasked to the already-stretched NHS ambulance service, putting countless patients at risk, and jeopardizing the future of private companies that are relied upon to ease the burden on the system", said Rick Player of Event Paramedics, and IAA director.

Events Impact

The impact of the bill as drafted would also be felt at thousands of public and private sporting and social events like cycle races, marathons, air-shows, music festivals, equestrian events and town festivals. NHS ambulance trusts cannot provide medical cover to all these events and do not have appropriate vehicles, such as 4x4 or motorcycle units, which suit the circumstances.

If changed the legislation could mean a competitor or spectator at an event could not get fast treatment as the response vehicle could not get to the patient on a public highway using blue lights or driving at speed or transport them if needed to hospital.

In recent months one IAA member, who specialises in events, dealt with a cardiac arrest at a half marathon, a stabbing which penetrated the heart, and several cardiac patients having heart attacks. After initial treatment by their paramedics the patients got rapid transport to hospital. But, if the legislation as currently drafted is enacted, they would have had to wait for an NHS ambulance to travel to the event site for onward transport to hospital.
That would have presented an immediate threat to the lives of those time-critical patients. And it would have added further stress to already-stretched NHS ambulance services.

For more than 30 years independent and voluntary ambulance service providers have used such exemptions based on need, not on which organisation happens to operate the vehicle. The Bill as currently drafted would make long-standing, life-saving interventions illegal. The IAA is calling for urgent revision of Bill from specifying that a journey is at the request of an NHS ambulance service, to being at the request of a CQC registered ambulance provider (as defined by the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activity) Regulations 2010.
The IAA represents more than 50 independent ambulance providers across England. All members are registered with the Care Quality Commission.  

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