Ambulance Watch: New 999 boss pledges to put extra ambulances in south Norfolk and north Norfolk

The new boss of the East of England Ambulance Service has pledged to put extra ambulances in north Norfolk and south Norfolk in a bid to improve response times.

Anthony Marsh, who became the new CEO of the ambulance service last month, today revealed that the trust was placing more double staffed ambulances (DSA) in Cromer, Fakenham, and Diss from the beginning of March. He added that those areas would be getting extra front-line staff to man the vehicles.

In north Norfolk, a brand new additional ambulance will be in place 24/7 at Cromer bringing it from two to three. Cromer will also get an extra 12 hour DSA on Fridays and Saturdays.

Fakenham, which currently has one 24/7 ambulance, will lose a Rapid Response Vehicle and get an extra ambulance for eight hours a day. Diss ambulance station will go from two to three 24/7 ambulances, under the changes announced.

Dr Marsh said: 'Providing more ambulance cover in Norfolk is vital to improve our service to patients and I am delighted that we have been able to do this by working with our staff. Although I have only been with the trust for a month I am clearly seeing the determination of staff to succeed and provide the type of service that we all want to see.'

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Officials at the East of England Ambulance Service announced last year that they were putting 15 extra double staffed ambulances on the road. However, the extra resource never materialised after it emerged that the trust did not have enough staff to man them.

Denise Burke, prospective parliamentary candidate for North Norfolk and Act on Ambulances campaigner said: 'While we welcome any additional cover in North Norfolk we have had numerous promises of additional resource that did not come to fruition, and we are still looking for answers on a similar announcement made last year.

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'Out of the five additional ambulances earmarked for Norfolk, we do not know how many of these actually ended up in action. The East of England Ambulance Service Trust needs to be more transparent about the changes to rotas so campaigners can keep a careful eye on the bigger picture.'

The EDP revealed last year that an ambulance rota redesign resulted in a net loss of nine DSAs in Norfolk and Suffolk from 53 to 44. Front-line staff in north Norfolk also won a formal grievance last year to get more resources in the area.

Fraer Stevenson, Unison A19 campaign lead, who has been calling on the trust to reduce its reliance on Rapid Response Vehicles, said: 'Front-line staff have been campaigning for more paramedic staff ambulance cover in Norfolk, as well as for national changes to ambulance targets. Last year, a group of paramedics from Norfolk took their concerns to parliament, with the support of North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who has been instrumental in our cause.'

'The heavy reliance on rapid response cars to meet targets has led to increasing backup delays for patients, particularly in rural areas. The decision by Dr Marsh to increase the paramedic-staffed ambulance cover and decrease car reliance is very welcome. It's encouraging that he sees the urgency needed to address these issues and is putting patients needs ahead of targets.'

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