Ambulance service fears in Thetford

Concerns over proposed changes to the way the ambulance service is staffed spread to Thetford last night amid worries about the impact on patient care in a town with planned growth.

Gary Applin, Unison branch secretary for the East of England Ambulance Service, who lives in the town, has written to both of the town's GP surgeries in a bid to raise awareness of cuts and said his worries centred on the level of emergency provision.

Earlier this month the trust released full details of the proposals for a radical redesign of where its response vehicles will be based and what hours of cover they will provide.

In Thetford this will see provision reduced from one full-time and two part-time double-staffed ambulances (DSA) to one full-time DSA, and a rapid response vehicle (RRV) will be introduced.

Mr Applin however said the changes, especially to RRs – specially-kitted out cars manned by paramedics that can treat patients on scene but cannot take them to hospital – could leave patients waiting longer for transport and cause distress to those in need.

'My obvious concern is that the people who live here need to be more aware,' he added. 'Our concern is that they may cut the amount of double-staffed ambulances in favour of cars, but there are still an amount of people who will need taking to hospital. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know it won't work.'

The redesign is based on data such as the number of calls, the type of calls, which postcode they come from, what time of day they are made and how long it takes the service's vehicles to become available again after attending a call.

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The trust has argued staffing rotas are badly in need of a redesign as where, and when, resources are currently based does not meet patient demand.

But Mr Applin said he believed the changes amounted to cuts, saying: 'We believe they should go to the Department of Health with the other 10 chief executives of the ambulance services in the UK and say the cuts they're proposing are going to put our patients and our staff at risk to varying degrees.

'It's not just us – it's happening all over the place so it's a really big problem – but we're very concerned at getting a 50pc reduction in such a busy place.'

An ambulance spokesman said: 'More tailored coverage overall in the trust with some areas getting more resources, will have a positive impact across the region and resources will be better managed and protected to the local areas they serve instead of routinely being sent further afield.'

He said all calls were assessed so ambulances were not dispatched unnecessarily.

'That response could, in the case of minor calls, mean being referred to a different source of treatment via the control room clinical support desk,' he said.

'More than 900 minor calls a week are dealt with this way, ensuring ambulances are free for those who need them.

'With any new development the ambulance service, along with all the other emergency services, are consulted.

'One of the advantages of our new intelligent modelling system is that there is built-in flexibility so any changes can be fed into it and a new demand profile will be produced to inform our resourcing needs in future.'