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Ambulance Watch: Norwich paramedic describes “lonely” and “stressful” life on frontline of service

The experienced paramedic said it was embarrassing for ambulance staff to wait so long for back-up in front of police and fire crews.

The experienced paramedic said it was embarrassing for ambulance staff to wait so long for back-up in front of police and fire crews.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

A paramedic has claimed ambulance staff are routinely “embarrassed” in front of the police and fire service by the service’s slow response to dealing with emergencies.

The experienced paramedic, who does not wish to be named for fear of losing his job, warned that the struggles staff were facing would only get worse when roster changes are introduced at the start of March.

Under the changes, paramedics say they will have fewer staff and less vehicles to respond to emergencies in Norfolk.

The paramedic for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) said: “I’m regularly waiting a long time for back up for critical ill patients and it is very stressful.

“I came into the job to serve my community and it is getting worse in Norwich now.

“It can be heartbreaking. You know this person will benefit by getting into critical care quickly. You feel sorry and sad for them. I have had some people phone 999 in front of me saying look, where is the ambulance?

“We do our best but we are desperate for back-up. You feel both sad and angry. A lot of people are saying the same as me. Complaints are going up as well. The complaints are not directed at us but at the wait.

“You are embarrassed in front of the police and fire service.”

The paramedic added that when dealing with emergencies, such as serious car crashes, life for paramedics was often “cold, dark and lonely”.

He said: “You are thinking, I could be here for an hour. You are wondering, when is my back-up coming? You should be taking care of the patient but you are thinking where is my back-up?

“Police officers are looking at you with their hands in the air, saying what is happening? You are worried for your patients.”

The EEAST said it had a “raft of measures” planned to improve response times.

They include 140 new frontline staff, more powers at local level so staff and managers can deliver the right service for their area, new cars staffed by advance paramedics able to treat less serious patients in their home so they don’t have to go to A&E, liaising with hospitals to reduce handover times and better designed rotas to work more effectively.

•East Anglian MPs will quiz ambulance bosses on response times at a meeting in Westminster next month.

The politicians are meeting with the trust’s chairman Maria Ball and interim chief executive Andrew Morgan on March 14 to get an update on what the ambulance service is doing to reduce response times. A spokeswoman for the EEAST said: “This meeting was arranged as a follow up from the previous one in November between all parties to keep MPs up to date on the progress the ambulance service is making. We view these regular meetings as important in ensuring a positive, effective and open dialogue with MPs.”

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