Ambulance shake-up 'risks'11th December 2007
Ambulance unions have criticised plans by the NHS to send out vehicles manned by one person in a bid to achieve new targets, saying it could put patients "at risk".
From April 2008, the 10 ambulance trusts in England must respond to 75% of the most critical emergencies within eight minutes of a call being received.
The "solo-responders" - also known as rapid response vehicles - are staffed by one person, while normal ambulances have a two person team. They are estate cars which carry ambulance equipment.
Trusts have ordered many more solo-responder vehicles and may split up their two-person teams in a bid to meet the new time targets.
The number of solo-responders working in London will increase by half to 200 by April 2008.
Ambulances which remain on call could see a paramedic responding to calls assisted by an emergency care assistant, who had received basic emergency training. The amount of assistants working within the service is expected by the Department of Health to increase threefold to over 3,300 by 2011.
Tony Dell, chairman of the NHS Confederation's ambulance forum, commented: "It is going to be beneficial to patients. They are not going to see any diminishing in skills and the responses will be faster."
But Jonathan Fox, of the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel and a solo-responder, said: "We are trying to do things on the cheap and that is never good for patients."
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