Ambulance manager warns of ‘unsafe service’ as 999 response times plummet to record lows

An East of England Ambulance Trust ambulance. Photograph Simon Parker

An East of England Ambulance Trust ambulance. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

A senior manager has accused the region's ambulance trust of not providing a safe service as emergency response times sink to record lows.

The manager, who has worked for East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) for several years, said performance had never been so poor following a 'lack of planning for increased demand', and issued a plea for external help from the NHS.

New figures exclusively obtained by this newspaper shows the trust reached just half of patients within the target time whose 999 call was categorised as the most serious (Red 1) during March in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire.

An EEAST spokesman said the ambulance service had experienced unprecedented levels of demand in recent months and that a 'recovery action plan' was being drawn up with local NHS bosses.

It comes as EEAST this week is inspected by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission, whose findings earlier this year resulted in London Ambulance Trust being put in special measures.

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The manager, who did not wish to be named, accused the trust of removing staff from their normal work to prepare for the inspection, but the trust said this was not correct.

The manager also claimed the poor performance had caused harm to patients, and said proposals to change staff meal breaks and protection from late finishes were foolish.

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A spokesman for the trust said: 'In March, we experienced a 24pc increase in calls in Norfolk, 20pc in Suffolk and 27pc increase in Cambridgeshire.

'We have increased staffing over the last two years, but have faced much higher demand, coupled with an increase in handover delays at acute hospitals.

'We have increased the number of clinicians in our control rooms so that we can give medical advice to patients over the phone, which frees up our clinicians on the road to attend life-threatening and serious calls.'

The spokesman said the trust had recruited almost 800 student paramedics in the last two years, but would not see the benefit of these appointments until they were fully trained, qualified and registered.

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