Performance improvement is good news for all of us

STEVE CANAVAN: My condition is a right old pain in the neck

It's great news that there has been a marked improvement in the performance of our ambulance service.

We now have one of the best ambulance trusts in the country when it comes to responding to life-threatening emergencies and that's reassuring.

In the past there's understandably been anxiety about the time it has taken South Central Ambulance Service to arrive at an emergency once a call for help has come in.

Previous league tables have not always put the service's response times in a good light and that has been a concern for all of us who know we might one day need to call on them.

When you are faced with someone in need of urgent medical attention, it's upsetting to think that there has been any kind of delay.

The trust was clearly aware that it wasn't doing as well as it should have been and has worked hard to find ways to change that.

Some of the adjustments it has made sound like common sense. A pre-alert system enables paramedics to warn the hospital who is coming in and why. That means hospital staff can prepare for their arrival, making sure that the hand over runs smoothly, and is therefore quicker.

Assessing what help a patient is going to need before anyone is dispatched also means that precious resources are being better managed.

The fact is that not everybody is going to need to go to hospital and, where appropriate, a paramedic in a car can respond instead of a crew in an ambulance. Other patients can be treated by a GP or pharmacist.

While it is better to be safe than sorry, we must all take responsibility for when and why we dial 999. By doing so we will be helping the trust make sure it is able to respond when it is really needed.

The way that staff coped during this winter's heavy snow clearly demonstrates that response times have improved. Despite the challenges they faced, they suffered only a slight drop in performance and that's a good sign for the future.

We now hope the trust keeps up its good work in 2011.