Ambulances at the accident and emergency department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Photo: Angela Sharpe

Ambulance trust to launch independent review of Norfolk’s under-fire service

Saturday, November 17, 2012
11.00 AM

The region’s under-fire ambulance service is to launch an independent review into its operations in Norfolk.

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) has faced heavy criticism in recent months over the long delays patients have faced when waiting for ambulances to take them to hospital, as well as for its response times in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, which lag behind the rest of the region.

The Eastern Daily Press, which launched Ambulance Watch in repsonse to mounting concerns around the service’s performance in East Anglia, understands the service is to bring in an independent senior ambulance clinician to review its Norfolk operations, in a bid to restore public confidence and improve its care for patients.

Health minister Norman Lamb, who has been campaigning for a better service for his parliamentary constituents in North Norfolk, said: “I told them they needed to make a specific response to restore public and staff confidence and examine the whole system in Norfolk and make sure they were using their resources efficiently.

“They have now come back to me and have said they are going to establish an independent review by bringing in an independent senior ambulance clinician.”

The clinician who will lead the review has not yet been revealed, as contracts are yet to be signed, but it thought the review will start before Christmas.

Mr Lamb said: “I asked specifically whether they will be engaging with staff and listening to paramedics’ concerns about how the system is operating and they have told me there will be clinical focus groups so that staff can have their say.

“They need to rebuild public confidence and this will be central to their work.

“It’s certainly a very positive move and a recognition that the system need to be addressed and so I welcome their decision to do this.

“But it has to be substantial and have a real look at where things are going wrong.

“I want to see how it’s planned and what the substance will be. I have had answers in the past from the ambulance trust that have not been borne out, so I want to see that this has substance to it.

“Someone from outside will bring a fresh pair of eyes and an independent view which is incredibly important. It’s a way of challenging the system and can crucially get staff back on side.”

The chief executive of the ambulance service, Hayden Newton announced last month that he will be retiring early from his £140,000 role, leaving the trust with the job of finding a new leader to take over.

Trust spokesman Gary Sanderson said: “EEAST can confirm they have commissioned an independent review regarding service delivery in Norfolk and the trust is working on the terms and references for this. There will also be is a wider capacity review in the near future.”

Mr Lamb said a whole review of the urgent care system in Norfolk, dubbed Project Domino, was also taking place as there was recognition that the solution needed to involve other parts of the health care system as well, for example hospitals and primary care.

Don’t miss the EDP next week for the hard-hitting results of our survey on the experience of patients using the East of England Ambulance Trust.