NHS ambulance service to cut presence at Gatwick airport and sports venues to free up crews for 999 calls

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Passengers arrive at Gatwick Airport (Stock image) (PA Archive)
Passengers arrive at Gatwick Airport (Stock image) (PA Archive)

An NHS ambulance service will cut back its presence at Gatwick airport in order to free up vehicles to respond to 999 calls, according to reports.

The move comes as ambulance response times in England plunged to the lowest levels on record last month amid mounting pressure.

The South East Coast ambulance services (Secamb) is set to end an agreement with Gatwick under which it provides an onsite ambulance car and paramedic, according to the Guardian.

It will also scale back the number of ambulances and paramedics on standby at Brighton and Hove Albion FC’s Amex Stadium and Goodwood racecourse, the newspaper reported.

Data published by NHS England last month revealed that the average response time for ambulances in England dealing with the most urgent incidents – defined as calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and 35 seconds.

This is up from eight minutes and 51 seconds in February and is the longest average since current records began in August 2017.

Secamb and Gatwick had paused the arrangement in 2020 amid plunging passenger levels due to Covid, but the airport had since sought to resume the service. Secamb are said to have declined the request, citing unprecedented demand for ambulances elsewhere.

It is understood that the move could force Gatwick and other affected organisations to seek private medical cover from other providers.

A spokesperson for Secamb said: “Recognising the challenges that we, along with other ambulance trusts, are facing currently, we are reviewing the private medical cover contracts we have to ensure we provide a fair and equitable service to all, regardless of where people are in our region.

“We will be keeping the matter under review and would like to reassure anyone attending the locations affected by these changes that they will continue to receive emergency medical help if needed.”

Last month, the Standard reported how volunteers would be trained to drive ambulance cars for some London patients in need as part of a pilot scheme.

Under the new scheme, expected to launch this month, they would also be sent out to lower category (3&4) calls where it has been judged to be safe for a trained volunteer to accompany a patient but would not be appropriate for a taxi, LAS said.

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