Desperate health bosses ask paramedics to work in A&E
PUBLISHED: 15:46 21 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:01 21 December 2019
Health chiefs are asking paramedics to work in overwhelmed A&E departments in another sign of the extreme pressure on Norfolk's NHS.
Staff at the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) were sent a text message on Saturday morning by a manager to work in hospital emergency departments.
"Potentially looking for some staff this afternoon to care for patients in the ED departments across Norfolk & Waveney," it said. "Hours and locations to be discussed and confirmed."
One paramedic said it was "madness" for NHS chiefs to want them to work in A&E departments.
"None of us have any issues about helping our colleagues out but it throws up all sorts of questions," they said.
"We've never had a message like this before. You might be asked to help monitor patients at A&E when you drop them off, but in this message they are asking us to actually work in the A&E department."
A spokesperson for Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) said, however, said: "It is established practice for all trusts to make use of paramedic support in emergency departments as part of the overall winter plan.
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"We work collaboratively with the ambulance service to keep patients safe during periods of high demand. We have not needed to take up today's offer from the ambulance service. However, we will continue to liaise closely with them in managing demand over the busy winter period.
"The public can also help by getting their flu jab if they're eligible, talking to a pharmacist for expert advice about winter bugs before they get worse, or using the NHS 111 phone or online service if they need medical help fast but aren't sure what to do."
The latest figures show the N&N, which has the region's biggest A&E department, was the worst performing in the country last month for patient waits.
The NNUH saw just under 60pc of patients within four hours - the target is 95pc and the average in England was 81pc. The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston saw 79pc in four hours. The figure for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn was 76pc.
On Tuesday, senior doctors at the NNUH were also told to make the "least unsafe decision" for patients because the hospital was so overwhelmed.
It had no spare beds and A&E was full with 35 patients waiting on trolleys, the Guardian reported.
The message went on to describe the hospital as "over-crowded" and in "the most challenging situation".
On Friday a spokesman for the NNUH said the hospital was determined to provide timely, safe, high-quality care to all patients.