Sussex ambulance service ‘working hard’ to resolve response team’s concerns

HART ambulance
HART ambulance

A spokesperson at South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) said they are ‘working closely’ with Henfield Area Response Team (HART) to resolve communication issues.

Two representatives at SECAmb have stepped forward to say they ‘recognise the concerns’ raised by HART chairman, Dick Nye, after he claimed there were serious problems with SECAmb’s SMS text messaging service in last week’s County Times.

Mr Nye revealed that he was ‘frustrated’ by ‘time wasting’ issues including receiving texts to locations as far as Kent, multiple messages sent to off-duty responders, and two occasions where SECAmb failed to turn up to the scene after asking the volunteer to attend.

SECAmb’s media relations manager, Richard Airey, said: “Having spoken to my colleagues in voluntary services I can confirm that we have been working closely with the Henfield Community First Responder (CFR) scheme to address the concerns they have raised.”

Mr Airey explained that SECAmb uses SMS text messages to dispatch responders, reducing the number of calls to their Emergency Operations Centres (EOC). A HART responder is required to contact the centre and book on to respond.

He continued: “We provide dedicated support to our responders through our ‘response desk’ which we aim to have manned 24/7. However, when 999 calls are high, priority has to be given to answering the potentially life threatening calls coming into the EOCs, meaning staff manning the response desk may on occasion need to answer 999 calls. As a result, we recognise that sometimes it may be difficult to get through to the dedicated response desk.”

A SECAmb spokesperson added: “We value the incredible contribution responders make to their local communities on a daily basis. We take any concerns raised very seriously and we are working closely with the Henfield Community First Responder scheme to address them.

In response to Mr Nye’s claim that SMS text messages meant for Kent’s responders were sent to the Henfield team, the spokesperson said: “Between April and November of this year SECAmb assigned responders to approximately 15,000 patients across our Sussex, Surrey and Kent region. During the same period we received 15 reported call centre issues. Despite the low numbers in relation to the number of activations, we thoroughly investigate each incident and act on the findings.

“We invited all responder team leaders who were experiencing issues to a meeting at the end of October, which the chairman and team leader of the Henfield scheme both attended. As a result of that meeting, a further meeting was arranged with relevant senior managers from within the Trust and we have worked hard to resolve any issues being experienced by our responders. A new procedure to resolve many of these issues is expected to be finalised before the end of January.”