NHS bosses have refused to speculate as to who would respond to Northamptonshire’s 999 calls if East Midlands Ambulance Service was unable to operate due to crippling fines.
The Chron revealed on Tuesday that ambulance finance chiefs were worried at the size of potential fines next year, if it continued to miss its response speed targets.
As much as £5.2 million could be taken from it by NHS Derbyshire, which oversees the ambulance contract, in 2013 if it does not improve, potentially jeopardising its future. Currently crews are not getting to patients often enough within the required time for the two most urgent types of 999 call, called A8 and A19 targets.
A similar previous fine this year was returned to the ambulance service to reinvest in patient care.
But yesterday NHS Derbyshire refused to speak about what would happen to the money next year or who would run 999 medical services if EMAS could not continue.
A spokeswoman said: “We will continue to work closely with EMAS to improve ambulance response times, but we can’t speculate on where the money would go if the service was fined as this would depend on the particular circumstances at the time.
“We also can’t speculate on how the needs of 999 patients would be met if the service was unable to continue because of fines as this isn’t the [current] situation – and the service has made significant improvements with its A8 target.”
Health watchdog members believe it is unlikely the trust would be allowed to go under. And they dismissed suggestions that a private firm could take the reins, as will happen in July in Northamptonshire with EMAS’s transport service for hospital appointments.
However, some believe another NHS ambulance service, less local than EMAS, could be asked to take over. Des Savage of Northamptonshire LINk, said the system of one NHS body fining another could backfire on patients.
He said: “If the threat of a fine focuses mind then it’s good for patients. But it certainly isn’t if, in so doing, it cripples the organisation. That’s like self-destruction.”