By Sion Wynne, Senior Solicitor and Team Leader in the Medical Negligence Department
Research reported by the BBC last week found some rural communities wait more than 20 minutes on average for an ambulance or trained person to get to immediate life threatening call-outs.
In England, the ambulance services are expected to reach patients within an average of seven minutes.
Previous legal cases have shown that where there is no good reason for a delay in an ambulance responding and this causes a patient to suffer injury or death, this can result in a successful claim for financial compensation.
The BBC research was based on average response times across the country in respect of life-threatening call outs, including: cardiac arrests, stab wounds, major blood loss, seizures, difficulties breathing and end stages of labour.
It found the average response time for rural areas was 11 minutes 13 seconds – more than 50% longer than the seven minutes 14 seconds it takes in urban areas and the seven minutes target in England.
The BBC report commented on the benefits of receiving emergency treatment as quickly as possible, referring to research showing about two thirds of patients suffering cardiac arrests who receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation survive, but that every minute delay reduces survival by 10%.
Case law confirms that where an ambulance service has accepted a call-out and dispatched an ambulance, a duty of care is owed to the patient, and if they suffer injury or sadly die as a result of an unreasonable delay responding, there can be a liability to pay compensation. Similarly, if negligent medical care or treatment is provided by the paramedics who attend.