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Ambulance chief hits back at “cuts” concerns in North Norfolk, North Walsham and Cromer

PUBLISHED: 13:52 02 August 2012

Planned ambulance cuts in north Norfolk are causing concern.

Planned ambulance cuts in north Norfolk are causing concern.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

An ambulance chief has hit back at the concerns of politicians and town councils in north Norfolk over “cuts” to services.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, and the town councils at North Walsham and Cromer, have this week aired fears that ongoing changes will harm patient care, while the local Labour party is set to crank up a petition against the moves.

But the East of England Ambulance Service chief executive Hayden Newton - who has been written to by the MP seeking answers and the councils seeking a meeting and change of heart - has responded to “clarify the situation”.

Mr Lamb was worried about 150 vacancies being scrapped, and reductions of ambulance numbers from two to one at Cromer and one to none at North Walsham.

But Mr Newton said: “Ambulances are not being cut overall but matched to where demand lies.”

The figures quoted were inaccurate. Cromer would go from having two full-time ambulances to one full-time and one part-time to cover periods warranted by local need.

North Walsham would have a rapid response vehicle instead of an ambulance to meet patient needs, demonstrated by a review that showed less than half of patients needed to go to hospital and could be treated at the scene.

New control room clinical support desks were also taking 900 minor calls a week and redirecting them to more appropriate means, freeing up emergency ambulances to go to genuine emergencies.

It was “paving the way for the rota review and revisions which, using sophisticated modelling technology, tell us where and when vehicles are needed and what type,” said Mr Newton who vowed to give Mr Lamb a full response.

He said he had told the MP the 150 vacant lines across the trust had removed because of the changes. It was recruiting 140 new emergency care assistants, and now had around 1,500 paramedics, compared to 950 in 2007.

He said: “We face the challenge of saving £50m over five years as our part of cost savings. With 900 calls a week no longer being sent an ambulance unnecessarily, the most intelligent review ever undertaken of the service demonstrates that, by matching resources to demand while more effectively ringfencing crews to local areas – so those areas are actually better covered than at present when they are routinely sent elsewhere – we can find a way forward while maintaining patient care, building on improved response times and keeping frontline staff at nearly double the number five years ago.”

Meanwhile North Norfolk Labour party, which already has an online petition - www.actonambulances.co.uk - calling for more ambulance resource in the area, will be campaigning in Cromer on Saturday August 11 from 10.45am.

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