May 19 2013 Latest news:
By Sophie Wyllie
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Fifteen additional ambulance crews will be operating on the region’s streets as under fire health bosses bow to patient power in a bid to cut waiting times and provide a better service.
The 15 additional ambulances are being introduced by the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) which serves the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Essex.
Of these 15 crews, one each will be based in Beccles, Cromer, Dereham, Diss, Downham Market and Potter Heigham in Norfolk.
The other crews will be based in Mildenhall, Saxmundham, Felixstowe and Sudbury in Suffolk, Chelmsford, Southend and Weely in Essex and Huntingdon and Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.
They will be operational from Monday and each will be staffed by two people. The trust hopes the crews will operate on a full-time basis.
Initially current front-line staff will crew the vehicles on an overtime basis while the trust recruits an extra 75 new paramedics and 124 emergency care assistants, a process which is currently on going.
The decision to boost numbers was made by the trust on Monday and it is one of many measures to be introduced by interim chief executive Andrew Morgan (pictured below) in order to address the “productivity and efficiency” of the service.
He said: “I have had many discussions about the resources we have available and we are tackling the situation in many ways by recruiting more staff, trying to better match staff availability to demand, giving more power to local managers to deliver the right service for their area, working with hospitals to reduce turnaround times and addressing productivity, efficiency and sickness issues. All of this work will continue and must deliver results.
“However I am clear that we do not currently have enough double staffed ambulances out on the road. We cannot wait for all this other work to come to fruition before we address this shortfall which is why we have taken immediate action.”
Mr Morgan took up the post two months ago and yesterday’s announcement was a direct response to patient and staff feedback.
Over the past few months, the EDP has reported on several stories about concerns from patients about ambulance waiting times.
On Tuesday, we reported that MPs were briefed at Westminster on Monday by Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors who are said to have spoken to whistleblowers and patients during their unannounced inspection of the trust.
The CQC is expected to publish their report on the inspection, which examined delays in rural response times and turnaround times at hospitals, in early March.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, who arranged the Westminster meeting, said: “This is welcome news. I am pleased the board and the chief executive have listened to concerns raised by patients, staff and MPs. This action to help improve the service gives me confidence that we are heading in the right direction and that they are getting a grip.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “I think it is good news. The ambulance service faces a variety of challenges, one of which is having the right vehicles in the right places at the right times.”
He added: “I think yesterday’s announcement is very much to Andrew Morgan’s credit.”
In March the ambulance service will undergo a “rota redesign” which would mean the double staffed ambulances would be used at peak times when demand was high, rather than a blanket coverage.
The additional ambulances would be used on top of the vehicles used after the rota redesign has been put in place. After the redesign, the number of cars, known as rapid response vehicles driven by just one paramedic, would increase. But front-line staff fear this may impact on waiting times to category A patients, seriously ill or injured people, who may only be able to travel to hospital in an ambulance.
On Monday the EDP reported on a group of concerned paramedics who have started a campaign calling for the Department of Health to change its A19 target, ensuring that rapid response vehicles do not count in the 95pc target for arriving at the most critically-ill or injured patients within 19 minutes. The paramedics say the cars are mostly unable to transport the category A patients in a clinically-safe manner to hospital.
Responding to yesterday’s announcement, an anonymous student paramedic from the Cromer ambulance station said: “I’m hopeful that Andrew Morgan appears to have listened to his staff, the public, MPs and the CQC, who, in their last report [spring 2012] commented on the fact the trust had to work harder to address the delays in getting patients in rural communities to hospital.”
For more information about the A19 campaign visit www.changeA19.org
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