May 18 2013 Latest news:
By Adam Gretton
Health correspondent, Health correspondent
Friday, March 15, 2013
Norfolk and Suffolk MPs yesterday called on ambulance trust board members to consider their positions over ongoing performance issues.
Nine East Anglian MPs met with bosses of the under-fire East of England Ambulance Service in Westminster to quiz bosses over what they were doing to resolve slow response times.
The MPs said they were pleased to hear that former NHS Norfolk head Andrew Morgan was set to continue his work within the ambulance trust as interim chief executive for at least the next six months.
However, they called on the board to reflect on their roles ahead of the publication of a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report following an unannounced inspection.
Three Norfolk MPs - Henry Bellingham, Chloe Smith, and Simon Wright - and two Suffolk MPs - Peter Aldous and Therese Coffey - met with the NHS trust chairman, deputy chairman, chief executive, and operations director.
The East of England Ambulance Service is supposed to respond to 75pc of the most urgent life-threatening calls within eight minutes, but that figure is currently only 73pc and in Norfolk it is even lower at 64pc.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, who chaired yesterday’s meeting, said it was good news that the trust was working with other ambulance services to improve after it emerged that Anthony Marsh, the CEO of the West Midlands Ambulance Service, had been parachuted in by the Department of Health to carry out an independent review.
“I welcome the decision made to bring in Anthony Marsh and learning from other areas, though I wonder why this hasn’t happened before. The new chief executive is working hard to restore morale of front-line staff and add more ambulances.”
“Members of the board need to reflect on their own accountability for where we are after what has happened in the last few years. A culture of hitting regional targets but not focusing on each county feels like hitting the target and missing the point,” she said.
Local MPs will meet with health minister Earl Howe in Westminster on Monday evening to find out what the Department of Health is doing to address the situation at the East of England Ambulance Service.
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said yesterday’s meeting with the ambulance officials was useful, but some flaws had not yet been fixed. She added that she had written to the CQC over ongoing ambulance handover delays at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which was highlighted last Wednesday when 17 ambulances were queued up outside A&E.
She said: “I think the [ambulance trust] board need to reflect very carefully on what they have done to date and whether they have things in hand. The CQC report is out very shortly and I think that will bear very difficult news for the trust.”
“The ambulance staff are doing such a good job and the chief executive is doing some positive work with staff morale, but there is much more to do and it is urgent,” she said.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham added that the slow ambulance turnarounds at the N&N were “unacceptable”.
“The good news is that Andrew Morgan is staying on for another six months at least and he is getting to grip with things. He is a ‘can do’ chief executive and making every effort to tackle the mistakes of the past.
“It is unacceptable that such a large number of ambulances are waiting more than an hour at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and it needs strong management on both sides to solve it,” he said.
Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, added: “The board need to reflect very carefully on their duties and responsibilities and whether they are in the best position to give Andrew Morgan their full support. He is making steps to address things, but there is concern about the time it is taking to address them.”
Norwich South MP Simon Wright said that the high level of staff sickness and low morale at the NHS trust needed to be addressed.
“It is encouraging that the interim chief executive has a good feel of the issues and what the problems are. We wait to see the CQC report and how critical that report is and at that point the board have to be very clear in how they seek to address possible failings,” he said.
Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, is due to meet Mr Morgan today to seek assurances after Norfolk coroner William Armstrong accused the ambulance trust of “systemic and individual” failings following the death of 27-year-old Catherine Barton who died in a crash near Thetford in 2011.
“I am pleased that the government has brought in the CEO of West Midlands Ambulance Service to look closely at the operational procedures of the East of England Ambulance Association. Decisive action needs to be taken,” she said.
Nearly 3,000 people have supported a Facebook campaign demanding safety improvements on the A47 near Dereham set up after the latest fatal crash.
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