AMBULANCE chiefs have been told they have no excuse for poor performance after £11 million in extra cash was pumped into the service.

Paul Bates, chief executive of NHS Worcestershire, said leaders of the West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust could no longer fall back on old excuses about underfunding for failing to get to the most serious 999 calls within the target time.

Mr Bates said at a meeting of NHS Worcestershire: “The line from the ambulance service has always been ‘we are underfunded by millions of pounds. How can we possibly get it right?’ “We have put the investment in. In simple terms, that excuse is taken away.

“One small benefit from this investment is that there can be no hang up that they need more money.” The cash was awarded following an emergency review commissioned on behalf of all 17 primary care trusts in the West Midlands, including NHS Worcestershire, who between them fund the ambulance service.

It was announced at the end of September that the primary care trusts had agreed to pay an extra £11.8 million into the service, which has now been added to its £165 million budget for the current financial year.

Health chiefs hope the cash will help crews meet their most important targets, including getting to 75 per cent of the most serious and life-threatening incidents (‘category A’ 999 calls), within eight minutes of the call.

The trust has missed the 75 per cent mark in Worcestershire every month between April and August but managed to hit it for the first time in months in September when an ambulance arrived at a patient within eight minutes in 77.4 per cent of cases.

However, they have failed the regional target every month between May and September.

Anthony Kelly, chairman of the professional executive committee, asked if the improvements in Worcestershire response time were sustainable or just a “knee-jerk reaction” to the extra investment.

Mr Bates said the performance of the ambulance trust would continue to be monitored closely.

The ambulance service has introduced 30 new private ambulances for Birmingham and the Black Country, which frees up more ambulances to respond to 999 calls in the region.

Simon Hairsnape, the director of delivery for NHS Worcestershire, said it was difficult to “untangle” the pressures on the ambulance service, which he said were connected to a bad winter last year and the closure of Bransford Emergency Operations Centre – which your Worcester News campaigned to save.

Murray MacGregor, head of communications at the ambulance trust, said after the meeting: “Performance has improved considerably in Worcestershire and is very good – but demand continues to rise.

“Demand has risen by 10 per cent on last year. The independent Lightfoot Report, which was commissioned by the primary care trusts, including Worcestershire, concluded that the West Midlands Ambulance Service had insufficient resources and insufficient paramedics to be able to respond to the levels of demand it now faces.

“Managing demand is the responsibility of the primary care trusts.

“The primary care trusts and the West Midlands Ambulance Service have been working closely for some time to address the excessive increase in demand which is over the contracted level across the region.”

Your Worcester News was the only member of the media to attend this meeting.