Ambulance Watch: Pledge to get paramedics back to the front-line

PUBLISHED: 10:34 20 February 2014 | UPDATED: 16:56 24 February 2014

Ambulance responses in north Norfolk are the worst in the region for stroke and cardiac arrest patients.

Ambulance responses in north Norfolk are the worst in the region for stroke and cardiac arrest patients.

Archant Norfolk

The new head of the region’s ambulance service has pledged to reduce the number of medics on secondments after it emerged that 8pc of its qualified paramedics were not performing front-line duties.

Officials have bemoaned a shortage of skilled paramedics at the East of England Ambulance Service over the last year following criticism over slow responses.

However, figures from a Freedom of Information request show that at the end of last year, 92 registered paramedics were not responding to 999 calls as part of their day-to-day work.

Bosses at the under-performing ambulance service added that a total of 122 of the NHS trust’s 1,422 emergency care practitioners and paramedics had been on secondments from front-line work.

However, officials said 50 medics had since returned to front-line duties and another 14 would be returning to working on double staffed ambulances or Rapid Response Vehicles in the next six weeks.

The trust added that of the 58 medics still on secondments, 14 were on alternative working duties for reasons such as maternity, a further three are seconded to work on air ambulances, two are seconded to investigate serious incidents and the remaining 39 are seconded into “essential management posts”.

Anthony Marsh, who became CEO of the East of England Ambulance Service last month, said: “My immediate priority is to reduce long ambulance delays. One of the main reasons for the delays is that we don’t have enough paramedics working on ambulances. That is why I’ve reduced secondments by 50pc to return paramedics to working on ambulances treating patients.”

“We will reduce these secondments further as we maximise the number of front-line staff we have on ambulances. We are also in the process of restructuring the organisation and once the new structure is in place there will be no secondments as staff will be in substantive positions or the post will have been deleted as part of my drive to reduce corporate overheads and reinvest as much funding as possible into ambulances and frontline staffing.”

Figures from the FoI said that 55 of the qualified paramedics on secondment were working in clinical and emergency operations, whilst 14 worked in control rooms and 11 in shared support.

Denise Burke, of the Act on Ambulances campaign, said she could understand paramedics wanting to further their careers. However, it was hard to understand them doing others duties when there was a staff shortage.

“It beggars belief when we are struggling with qualified paramedics to keep up response times. It is encouraging to see the figures are coming down,” she said.

Have you got a story about the ambulance service? Contact Adam Gretton on 01603 772419 or email

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