December 10 2013 Latest news:
Adam Gretton, Health correspondent
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Overseas paramedics from countries including Australia and Canada could help solve the East of England Ambulance Service’s recruitment drive, its chief executive said yesterday.
Proposals to hire 350 more front-line staff at the under-fire ambulance service were announced in April as part of a turnaround plan for the under-performing NHS trust.
Bosses at the 999 trust have recruited 160 emergency care assistants and paramedics since then, but its interim chief executive said the organisation needed a “few hundred more” than their previous estimate and medics from abroad could help fill vacancies.
Andrew Morgan, who has been in the interim role since December, said he was looking to find £20m of savings from back office and support functions to fund more front-line jobs and double staffed ambulances to help improve response times in the region.
Mr Morgan added that redundancies were a possibility at the end of the year. However, a restructure of the East of England Ambulance Service would not involve a reduction in paramedic, call handler or dispatch staff numbers.
“We need to recruit more paramedics because we need more ambulances. We are getting as much of our resources out there, but we need more and that does not happen overnight.”
“You can not go down the job centre for a paramedic. We can entice them from other trusts and we have a number of student paramedics that will come to fruition over the next 12 to 18 months. We will look overseas and anywhere for quality staff. We want the brightest and the best and we would look at what countries have similar paramedic services to ours like Canada and Australia. We are looking to see if we can turn nurses into paramedics and people coming from the military who worked as medics,” he said.
The region’s ambulance service, which covers Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, has been criticised by MPs, patients and the health regulator, the Care Quality Commission, over poor response times.
However, the trust is still failing to hit its trust-wide target of attending at least 75pc of the most urgent 999 calls within eight minutes and to get a transportable resource to 95pc of them within 19 minutes.
Mr Morgan yesterday admitted that he could not give a guarantee when patients in Norfolk and Suffolk might see a significant improvement in response times. However, he hoped that the organisation would be hitting its trust-wide response targets by the end of the year.
“We have 180 double staffed ambulances across the six counties and through the turnaround plan we need to be closer to 250 ambulances. We know that the new ambulances have to go into rural areas and it is a fair assumption that Norfolk and Suffolk would get a significant number.”
“Nationally, our standards are measured at trust level, but to have a ‘red 1’ target at 50pc in north Norfolk is not right and I am the first to admit that it is not acceptable,” he said.
Consultations with East of England Ambulance Service workers began this week about potential redundancies, which involves staff working in departments including communications and engagement, human resources, training, operations performance, business development, clinical audit, commercial services, procurement, and the fleet and estates team. The trust announced earlier this month that it was streamlining its directors from six to four.
Mr Morgan said he could not rule out the trust closing one or more of its control rooms, which has Health and Emergency Operation Centres in Norwich, Chelmsford, and Bedford.
“We are looking at control rooms, which was mentioned in the turnaround plan and in Anthony Marsh’s governance review there is a mention of it. We need efficient control rooms and we do not want to spend more than we need to.”
“It is difficult for other parts of the organisation whose roles might have to go to create extra money to fund extra front-line services. No one is knocking on our door with extra money and we have to find it from our own. We are trying to keep redundancies to a minimum,” he said.