Calls were made to address Norfolk and Suffolk’s “second rate” ambulance service as the application process for its new chief executive ended.

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MPs and union officials last night called on the East of England Ambulance Service to restore public confidence and improve response times in rural areas after it emerged that Norfolk was the worst performing across six counties.

Yesterday marked the final day for applications for the £145,000 a year chief executive post following the retirement of Hayden Newton last year.

And Norfolk and Suffolk MPs have called on whoever gets the job to restore staff morale and improve ambulance response times at a time when the service is looking to make £50m worth of efficiency savings over the next four years.

The NHS trust is currently failing to hit its target of responding to 68pc of category A8 emergency calls in eight minutes in Norfolk and the 75pc target for the region, which resulted in the service not getting foundation trust status last month.

MPs have challenged the new person at the helm to:

• Make sure patients in rural areas get a fair deal.

• Listen to staff over concerns about rota redesigns.

• Reduce the reliance on rapid response vehicles and deploy more double staffed ambulances.

• Work with hospital trusts to resolve ambulance handover delays.

North Norfolk MP and health minister Norman Lamb said there needed to be a review and re-assessment of ambulance targets after it emerged that there was an over reliance on sending rapid response vehicles out to 999 calls to hit response targets, but taking a long time to get patients to hospital.

He said: “Crucially we need someone who understands ambulance systems and urgent care and can get the system working collaboratively with others and someone who can get the best out of the high quality staff who are disillusioned and frustrated.”

“Their number one priority is addressing the unacceptable situation in Norfolk. It has gone on for years and Norfolk people and Norfolk patients are getting a second rate service compared to the rest of the region,” he said.

Former Norfolk NHS chief Andrew Morgan became interim chief executive at the East of England Ambulance Trust last month, who has expressed his desire to do the job on a permanent basis.

Tim Roberts, regional organiser for the ambulance service at Unison, said part of the problem at the trust was the £50m of spending cuts that had been “imposed” on the trust by the government.

He added that there needed to be more double staffed ambulances as staff were “frustrated” at arriving at incidents in single staffed vehicles and did not have the means of getting patients to hospital.

“I think there has been a detachment between trust management and the workforce and the new chief executive is trying to build bridges. He does not want the trust to get the kicking it has been getting. I think we can provide a way forward if the new chief executive continues to work with staff to come up with different solutions to make sure the best quality service is provided,” he said.

An independent review has been launched to look at ambulance capacity in the region and the NHS trust, which employs 4,000 people, and is also looking to recruit 140 extra frontline staff. A NHS Norfolk and Waveney meeting heard this week that staff sickness rates at the ambulance service had risen to above 8pc with long-term sickness at nearly 5pc.

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, who is campaigning for the ambulance trust to breakdown its response times by postcode, said: “There are fewer and fewer paramedics around. They are waiting longer and longer for ambulances to show up when they are needed. It is pretty horrendous. It is not unique for Suffolk and it is not unique for Norfolk, but it is acutely felt in rural areas.”

“The lack of transparency, lack of openness and defensiveness and all the time spent on foundation trust shows that members of the entire board have lost the plot and they need to focus on what they are really there for,” she said.

Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, added the trust, which covers six counties, appeared to be too big, with a focus on urban and built-up areas, which meant patients in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire were missing out. He added that the solution to resolving ambulance handover issues at hospitals rested with all organisations in the NHS.

“When you manage by targets there is a danger of becoming obsessed with meeting targets rather than providing first class health care,” he said.

The ambulance service said it had recruited 123 emergency care assistants, who are currently in training, and will be on the road by the end of March. A spokesman said 23 experienced paramedics are joining in the next few weeks and the trust was still recruiting.

16 comments

  • Every single MP who is quoted here expressing their "outrage" voted through these cuts in funding to the NHS. They really have some front trying to "campaign" on this issue. NHS staff struggling to provide care with meagre resources are frequently upset at work, because we know people are not getting the care they deserve. With 500 doctors and nurses also being made redundant at the mental health trust your NHS services in the region are being massacred by our MPs. Neither the ambulance trust or mental health trust can do much if they simply don't have enough money to employ the people needed. It is shameful that in 2013 people are waiting for hours for an ambulance. There is enough wealth in this country to have a first class health system. Hmmm, the £3 billion spent on the top down reorganisation of the NHS would have funded our local services for years to come.

    Report this comment

    mythbuster

    Monday, January 28, 2013

  • They really don't have a clue. MPs say they're working to address response times but their answers are to cut the number of ambulances and change the goal posts for response times. Changing targets will only mask the extent of cuts.

    Report this comment

    Jono

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • It's the "in thing" on the government benches. See who can get in first to show how much they are in tune with public concerns. They need to do this or there's a real risk the public will conclude that their policies in government have brought about the crisis. My fave of the week was good old BJ mouthing off with some posh buffoonery about Davos. Didn't care to mention he was there with DC and GO living it up in luxury at the exclusive parties and lavish dinners provided by the numerous tax-avoiding multi-national corporations keen to gain favour with our elected reps.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • No disrespect to Emergency Care Assistants (ECA's), but if they respond to an emergency call there is little they can do (CPR excepted). They will have to wait for a ParamedicEMT on a car or double staffed ambulance. The question should be asked why the Ambulance Technician (EMT) grade was discontinued. Morale is at it's lowest ever level amongst frontline ambulance staff. I have been emplyed by the Ambulance Service for 22 years and have never known a situation like this before. We do expect take some Cr*p from management, it goes with the job. Patients are now being affected and that is unacceptable.

    Report this comment

    Rolf

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • As long as emergency services are continually short of funds there will always be a poor service. .The Tories have always wanted the NHS to be privatised. Pushing through legislation allowing 49% of NHS facilites to be accessed by the private sector is a giant step towards this. Mr Lamb found this acceptable and was apparently was favour and agreed to the cuts implemented by the Tories.. Of course there is a private ambulance service operating in Norfolk. Possibly a warning of things to come.

    Report this comment

    norman hall

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • I agree with the paramedic who wrote this post, I had to call for the amblance service yesterday 30 January ., my husband and I were shopping ib Beecles and he had a diabetic hypo. , his very first one , very frightening , the paramedic was with us within 5 mins, he was very professional and quick at looking after my husband , I have nothing but praise for them, It is this damm government people should aim there complaints to, you cannot have cuts to save money, and a first class service, all the emergency services are stretched to the limit , so come on every one be proud of our services and not run them down, our GP s do not offer the service they had years ago but they certainly earn good salaries .

    Report this comment

    Suzanne Strudwick

    Thursday, January 31, 2013

  • Having had ton use the ambulance services a couple of times lately I have to say the responce was excellent. However the delay in handing over both times was nearly two hours. I was told by the ambulance men that they have had to wait up to four hours. As they are not allowed to leave the patient until the hand over is made. Is this also because they are under-staffed at A&E.

    Report this comment

    sharky

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • I had to laugh when I see the headline "Second Rate Ambulance Service" you are joking more like third rate and thats if you are lucky. I bet if you dialled 999 for an ambulance and then rang for a taxi you would find the taxi would get to you first..3 times last year my family called for an ambulance the first time was in February and I had collapsed in our lounge in Costessey 2 hours I laid there. in June my wife laid in Tesco's at the Harford Bridge store for well over 3 hours and never did get an ambulance and then in October my father-in-law who is 83 waited over 2 hours for an ambulance. so not once but 3 times they were useless and thats making it sound good. An Ambulance passed me on the A47 last year close to the A140 junction at about 2am and went down the A140 no traffic was about and I happened to follow it as I was on my way to Ipswich, over 20 miles I was behind this ambulance until it turned off for Diss and it was on an emergency call god help the person who called for it..

    Report this comment

    Footyboy16

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • Whoops seemed to have posted twice.

    Report this comment

    Rolf

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • Norman Lamb, like his chum Nick Clegg, is a modern day Judas. Look at them all trying to condemn the ambulance response times as the fleet is diminished in our county because of their cuts. All of these MPs are lining up to blame anyone but themselves for the worsening state of our NHS and ambulance service.

    Report this comment

    Jeffrey Osborne

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • "We will cut the deficit not the NHS"said David Cameron before he was elected.He will be borrowing £212 billion more than he said he would by the end of the parliament.Regarding the NHS,the Office for National Statistics have already informed him his claim is bogus.You never could trust the Tories with the NHS and now their duplicitous Libdem colleagues as well.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • Lamb and his tory paymasters instigate the cust and now he's crying fowl. Does he imagine people are stupid? Worse still some other culpable ConDem MPs get to add a few soundbites to show they really care too. Can the EDP not publish any story without chasing a local MP for soundbites or as a photo opportunity for some non-event barely passable as news. I counted 7 such instances in the EDP paper today but it gets so monotonous that there may have been more. These people save a fortune on campaigning and advertising with the EDP doing all the work for them.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • As a paramedic with the EEAT there are certainly a number of issues that need to be addressed such as mismanagement, lack of vehicles, and the ridiculous overuse of (no disrespect to them as many are friends) under qualified ECAs that can't do anything but the basic life support and first aid without the say so of a qualified member of staff. That aside there are other issue that would cut the use of the over stretched ambulance service far more than good management. There needs to be a much stronger public education on the need for calling an ambulance. The amount of time wasted on unnecessary or minor calls where people take the easiest route of dialling 999 rather than using common sense is ridiculous. The other big problem for the service is the amount of time spent dealing with primary care issues out of hours (OOH) as the current OOH system DOES NOT WORK. Bring back 24 GPs. If you get paid £100k + a year you should be working when you are needed, which includes nights and weekends! As for recent jumping on the bandwagon comments from certain elements of other emergency services, they are also underfunded and have enough of their own problems to be dealing with. I have nothing but respect for my police and fire services colleagues and friends, but as a paramedic I can give any number of incidences where the police have refused to attend as they're to busy or have had to wait for hours for an officer. They are as over stretched as us. Again, nothing but admiration for fire service colleagues and friends who shouldn't be but in the situations they have in waiting for ambulances, but the FBU can get off their high horse. When they have to deal with the number of calls with the resources we do they would have the same issues. Many fire stations won't do a single call at night and on several occasions paramedics on RRVs have dealt with more calls individually in one night than the whole Norfolk and Suffolk Fire Service put together. No that isn't exaggerating. Lastly, certain pathetic MPs trying to gain public favour seem to always gloss over the fact that THEIR NHS CUTS have gone a great way to putting the service in this position in the first place!

    Report this comment

    Annoyed

    Wednesday, January 30, 2013

  • One has experienced a minor revelation. It may be that we are all be unfairly harsh towards NL. The deputy PM's performance on a BBC politics prog today could be taken to show that he is a complete liar. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt and instead explain his comment that "we are not going back to the business of borrowing our way out of difficulty" as evidence that he and his party are being kept in the dark by their coalition partners. He is clearly unaware that his government has been borrowing more and more every single month since it was elected.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Sunday, January 27, 2013

  • No disrespect to Emergency Care Assistants (ECA's), but if they respond to an emergency call there is little they can do (CPR excepted). They will have to wait for a ParamedicEMT on a car or double staffed ambulance. The question should be asked why the Ambulance Technician (EMT) grade was discontinued. Morale is at it's lowest ever level amongst frontline ambulance staff. I have been emplyed by the Ambulance Service for 22 years and have never known a situation like this before. We do expect take some Cr*p from management, it goes with the job. Patients are now being affected and that is unacceptable.

    Report this comment

    Rolf

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • I,ve never had a problem with delays from ambulances. I,ve had to call for one a couple of times. The main problem I found was there was a 2 hour delay in handing over at the A&E. Maybe thats also because of cut backs.

    Report this comment

    sharky

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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