Surge in 999 calls leaves ambulance trust operating at near capacity

An East of England Ambulance at the NNUH. Photo: Steve Adams

An East of England Ambulance at the NNUH. Photo: Steve Adams

Off-duty paramedics were asked to report for service and some emergency crews in Norfolk had to work parts of their shifts in neighbouring counties as the region's ambulance trust battled to cope with the sheer volume of 999 calls.

East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) were forced to declare a 'surge black' on Tuesday evening, causing bosses to text frontline staff at home in a plea for volunteers to report for work.

A spokesman for the trust appealed to the public to consider if other healthcare options are available besides calling 999.

Richard Bacon, the MP for South Norfolk, where emergency response targets are frequently missed, said he believes trust is 'not the right size' and wants officials to consider devolving the service to be managed more locally.

EEAST received more than 3,000 999 calls on Tuesday, prompting managers to declare the second-highest level of the trust's capacity between 4pm and 9pm.

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An EEAST spokesman said the trust normally receives around 2,500 emergency calls per day, and estimated it was the fifth time capacity had reached 'surge black' level this year.

The only level higher is a 'major incident'.

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Most of the increased demand occurred in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, which caused crews in Norfolk and Suffolk to be dragged into neighbouring counties, the EDP understands.

It meant there were delayed responses to patients with serious but not life-threatening conditions.

Figures for August show EEAST only hit three of ten Red 1 and Red 2 (life-threatening calls) targets in Norfolk and Waveney.

Mr Bacon, who will meet ambulance bosses next week with other Norfolk and Suffolk MPs, said the situation at EEAST was a 'long-running concern', and questioned the size of the trust.

'My own view is that the trust is not the right size, and we need a smaller and more localised service to stop Norfolk crews being dragged across counties,' Mr Bacon said.

He added he would ask EEAST's representatives at next week's meeting about the number of paramedics who have left and joined the trust since it began its recruitment drive under former chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh.

An EEAST spokesman said: 'The trust experienced high demand on Tuesday which would have resulted in ambulance waits to some patients whose conditions were Green coded (serious but not life-threatening).

'We appreciate the public's patience when we are experiencing high levels of demand and all our staff are working very hard to provide the best possible care.

'We always ask the public to think about what it is they are calling 999 for and whether another option is available to them if it is not life-threatening or serious. T

'There are other options such as NHS 111, GPs, walk-in centres, out of hours GPs and pharmacies for minor ailments.'

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