Calling an ambulance when you or a loved one is in a serious emergency can be hugely distressing. But to call that ambulance not knowing whether it will arrive in time makes the anguish far worse. 

If people cannot rely on that happening, then it’s a sure sign that our healthcare system is failing badly.

The Liberal Democrats looked into ambulance response times to find out exactly what is going on and the results from a FOI request showed that Devon & Cornwall is the worst performing area of England. 

The NHS has a target of seven minutes for a Category 1 call out (life threatening, needing resuscitation) and 18 minutes for Category 2 (eg. stroke or chest pain). 

The FOI data shows that patients in South Hams have the third longest wait in England for a Cat 1 call-out, waiting on average 14 minutes 44 seconds - more than twice the NHS target time. For a Cat 2 call-out the average wait is 58 minutes - and that wait has doubled since 2019.

Cornwall was the worst-performing region overall, with an average wait of 1 hour 41 minutes for Cat 2 — almost six times longer than it should take.

It’s clear the ambulance service is really struggling in the South West - this region saw seven out of ten of the worst response times in the country. As well as clearly needed investment in the ambulance service, this is a very clear sign that we absolutely must get to grips with Social Care and Mental Health services - so people who are well enough to leave hospital can do so.

Unless we free up those beds in hospitals, we will continue to see ambulances waiting in queues outside, treating vulnerable patients by the road, often in freezing conditions. It is an absolute disgrace in a developed country like ours and I’m deeply disappointed that Conservative MPs in Devon and Cornwall have not done more to help relieve this crisis.

This Conservative government has overseen the complete decimation of local NHS services. The health service has faced unforgivable neglect and it is patients who are bearing the brunt.

The Government says funding in the NHS is at record levels, however the Health Foundation concluded that the planned NHS England budget will have decreased by an average of 1.6% per year in real terms between 2022/23 and 2024/25, when adjusted for population size and ageing.

“We absolutely must question the priorities of this Conservative Government. Over half a billion pounds is being squandered on the Rwanda scheme, with few people having any faith in it working. Even worse is the £125 billion that has been wasted since 2019, on botched or cancelled projects, and wasteful spending. (Details at Best for Britain, Scandalous Spending). 

Imagine the NHS we could have with even a fraction of that money being spent wisely by a responsible government? That’s what Liberal Democrats are fighting for and what I am committed to.

Caroline Voaden