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East of England Ambulance Service chief calls on north Norfolk residents to lobby GPs for 999 funding

PUBLISHED: 01:33 18 October 2012

An ambulance chief tonight called on concerned north Norfolk residents to lobby their GPs for more 999-service funding.

Dr Pamela Chrispin, deputy chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, was addressing about 60 representatives from 34 town and parish councils across the district worried about proposed cuts and other changes to the existing ambulance service.

She said the £50m savings in five years which the trust had to make was part of the harsh political reality facing all parts of the public sector.

But from April next year GPs would hold the purse strings, buying services from the trust through their new clinical commissioning groups.

Dr Chrispin said the trust would greatly value the support of the community in putting pressure on them.

She was among four trust representatives at the meeting, arranged by Cromer Town Council, who fielded a succession of questions about the long delays faced by many ill people in rural areas as they waited for an ambulance, and about the trust’s finances and targets.

Oskan Edwardson, the trust’s lead on strategic change projects, told the audience that the number of 999 calls had risen nationally by between three and six per cent annually for the last 10 years, with only about 60pc of these patients actually needing hospital care

There was no single cause for the increase but changes in the GP out-of-hours service, ambulances caught up in queues at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and cuts in other public services affecting the elderly were contributory factors.

“We have become the safety net for health. Trust staff want to meet the need as best we can but we are in an unparalleled time of challenges,” he said.

Holt town councillor Maggie Prior said she was worried by the trust’s tendency to reply to concerns with statistics.

“The bottom line is are there enough ambulances in this rural area, with its high population of elderly people, to cover? We are not getting the service we need. What direction do we need to go to get it?” she asked.

Mr Edwardson said there was a dilemma in the fact that performance targets were set regionally while rural areas wanted something specific to their needs.

He added: “Do the staff on the road have a passion to get to people in need as quickly as we can? Yes, we do. Are we frustrated at this level of cuts? Of course we are. Within the targets we have been set we are doing our best.”

● The EDP launched its Ambulance Watch campaign earlier this month in reponse to concerns about the disparity is reponse times between urban and rural areas, with counties like Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgshire getting a poorer deal than the three other counties in the region.

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