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West Berkshire villages face longest wait for ambulances

Response times for some of the district's areas were nearly three times longer than in other locations across Berkshire

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas


01635 886639

Rural West Berkshire villages have longest ambulance waiting times

RURAL villages in West Berkshire had some of the longest ambulance response times in the whole of the county last year, an investigation has revealed. 

Residents living in villages and hamlets which fall under the RG20 postcode faced the longest wait for paramedics between January and October 2018. 

In West Berkshire, these included Chieveley and Compton, where patients experienced an average wait of 12-and-a-half minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

This was more than the average response time for rural areas across the UK, which was 11 minutes and 13 seconds.

North Hampshire residents living in Ashmansworth, Ecchinswell, Leckhampstead, Highclere, Kingsclere and Sydmonton also faced the same wait. 

The findings came from an investigation by the BBC, which obtained the average response times for the most life-threatening callouts in more than 2,700 local communities across Britain.

These include cardiac arrests, stab wounds, major blood loss, seizures, patients not breathing or struggling to breathe and women in the late stages of labour.

Residents living in the RG8 post code areas of Pangbourne, Goring and Streatley faced the second-longest wait in West Berkshire, with an average wait for an ambulance of 11 minutes and 36 seconds.

And ambulances take on average 11 minutes and one second to reach RG7 post codes – including Aldermaston, Bradfield, Burghfield Common, Silchester and Mortimer.

The quickest response time in West Berkshire was in Tilehurst and Purley-on-Thames, where the average time to reach critical patients was six minutes and 20 seconds.

Ambulance services in England are expected to reach patients within an average of seven minutes, but there are different targets depending on where you live.

Those living in rural communities wait for 50 per cent longer than the seven minutes and 14 seconds it takes for an ambulance to arrive in urban areas.

But response times for some rural West Berkshire areas were nearly three times longer than in other locations across the county, such as in Reading, where it was as low as four minutes and 40 seconds.

But one run director at Newbury Parkrun said the ambulance service shouldn’t be criticised.

Ian Colcomb was overseeing the free, weekly 5K race last July when one of the participants suffered a cardiac arrest in the middle of Greenham Common.

Mr Colcomb called the emergency services immediately and was impressed by both the speed and professionalism displayed by paramedics.

Not only was he in the middle of Greenham Common, but the gates to the main entrance were blocked by parked cars, which meant the ambulance crew had to run with a stretcher over rugged terrain to the scene.

Mr Colcomb said: “It must have been 10 to 15 minutes by the time theambulance arrived.

“The gates were blocked, so the crew could not get on to the common,

“From my perspective, it’s easy to criticise, but we had an extreme case where the ambulance had to overcome hurdles – the runner could have died.

“I could not fault them whatsoever. They were fantastic.”

Responding to the findings, Mark Ainsworth, director of operations at South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS), said the trust is not measured against national response time targets on individual postcode areas which have been highlighted by the BBC.

Mr Ainsworth added that SCAS uses a “sophisticated forecasting model” to dynamically deploy its resources across the area it serves geography to meet patients’ needs.

Mr Ainsworth said: “SCAS serves a very large and geographically diverse area and there will always be variances in average response times between different postcodes.

“The average response time in England in rural areas is 11:26 – five of the seven SCAS rural Berkshire postcodes in the BBC FOI figures have an average response time below this.

“This suggests that despite the challenges of rural Berkshire, patients still receive a good, high-quality service from SCAS compared to some patients living in similar areas in other parts of the country.”

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