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Ambulance Watch: Norfolk paramedics to meet health ministers over ambulance concerns

PUBLISHED: 19:19 02 March 2013 | UPDATED: 17:38 04 March 2013

An East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust rapid response vehicle (RRV).

An East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust rapid response vehicle (RRV).

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Frustrated Norfolk paramedics will meet with MPs next week as part of a new campaign to stop ambulance chiefs from using a “loophole” to send cars to life-threatening incidents.

Around 15 front-line ambulance staff from across the county will travel to Westminster to air their ongoing concerns to health ministers regarding the state of the region’s ambulance service.

The East of England Ambulance Service paramedics and emergency care assistants are leading a campaign and have set up an e-petition calling for changes to a key response target.

Front-line staff say that it is “unacceptable” that rapid response vehicles (RRV), staffed by solo responders, are sent to serious incidents in order to hit a target of arriving at 95pc of A-grade calls within 19 minutes.

In many cases, staff and patients face a long wait for the arrival of ambulance back-up to take patients to hospital.

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP and health minister, will be hosting the visit of the paramedics on Wednesday and Earl Howe, minister responsible for urgent care and emergency care, has been invited to listen to their views.

Paramedics have called on the public to sign their e-petition, which will be considered for debate in the Commons if it gets at least 100,000 signatures.

The petition calls on the Department of Health to change the way the A19 target is claimed by ambulance trusts. They believe that the target should only be claimed when a transportable resource arrives on scene.

A Norfolk paramedic, who declined to be named, yesterday said only 7pc of category A patients were able to be taken to hospital by RRVs.

“It seems madness to have a target designed to measure the transportation of patients, that is claimable on arrival of a car. The A19 only applies patients that are the most seriously injured and ill. This loophole needs to be closed to protect patients, particularly in rural areas, where long back-up delays are caused by ambulance trusts manning RRVs over ambulances in order to claim this target,” the paramedic said.

The whistleblower added that staff morale the East of England Ambulance Service was “dire” and there was a lot of scepticism over whether the new chief executive could turn things around.

“Andrew Morgan is in a very difficult situation. He is just one guy surrounded by the managers who have led us into this situation. Day after day we go to sick patients not knowing when back-up will arrive. It is very frustrating when you are in that position,” the paramedic added.

Norman Lamb said the “change19” campaign had merit.

“I do think it needs to be re-examined. It does not seem to make much sense to have a target that is all about arrival in a vehicle if they can not get them to hospital,” he said.

The East of England Ambulance Service is currently only reaching 93pc of A19 incidents in 19 minutes and in Norfolk and Suffolk that figure is below 90pc.

For more information, visit www.changeA19.org or sign the e-petition at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42759

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