MP raises service concerns with ambulance bosses
06:30 22 February 2013
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012
An independent review into Norfolk’s under-fire ambulance service could be published next month, according to North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.
Mr Lamb met interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust Andrew Morgan and chairman Maria Ball at his North Walsham constituency office yesterday and raised concerns about response and hospital handover times as well as low staff morale.
After the discussion he said it was expected that senior ambulance clinician Ian McNeil would publish the findings from his clinical review into ambulance operations within Norfolk at the end of March.
The trust decided to introduce a review at the end of last year. It was started at the beginning of this year and the preliminary findings would be presented to Mr Morgan, according to Mr Lamb.
After the meeting, the MP said: “I was very clear about the situation at the time – that it is not acceptable, and to be fair to them (the trust) they conceded.”
He said that the trust’s recognition the response times were “not good” –which has seen the addition of 15 ambulances across the region – was a starting point.
Mr Lamb added he would meet both the interim chief executive and chairman in two months’ time.
“Ultimately the assurances I have had in the past have not been met,” he said.
The MP said he was in regular contact with paramedics, morale was low and there was a high rate of sickness absence.
Across the trust’s 999 emergency care teams, 220 people – between 10 and 12pc of frontline staff – were off sick at any one time which was the highest in the country, according to Mr Lamb.
As well as Norfolk the trust covers Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
Mr Lamb said: “You have got to ask the reason why? There is clearly a link between that and low morale. It is a significant problem that needs to be addressed.”
On March 6, Mr Lamb will take a group of “frustrated” north Norfolk paramedics to Westminster and hopes they can raise their concerns with MP Earl Howe, who is responsible for this area in the Department for Health.
He learned during yesterday’s meeting that in Norfolk there are 18,000 999 calls a week and 9,000 patients are transported to hospital each week, on average.
Last week was the worst week for handover times between paramedics and staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, according to Mr Lamb.
He said 232 hours were lost because many ambulances were waiting “above and beyond” 30 minutes before leaving for other emergencies which he added was “staggering”.