MPs quiz ambulance bosses over winter crisis

A line of ambulances waiting outside the A&E Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Ly

A line of ambulances waiting outside the A&E Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

MPs have demanded 'a lot more needs to be done' to ensure the crisis that hit the ambulance service during the festive period is never repeated.

East Anglian MPs met with East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) chiefs in Westminster for an update after crippling delays during patient hand overs in recent months.

Whistleblowers have claimed patients were harmed or even died because of the hold-ups.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he still had 'concerns' about the way the process was being handled.

'The impression I was left with from the meeting was it was all down to system pressures and the cause of the problem was hand over delays,' he said. 'These have been happening for years and are entirely predictable. There was one hospital elsewhere in the country that has supposedly sorted the problem and we were told our service now needs to share how they solved this – but why not before now? Why have we waited this long to address the issue?

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'They seemed to be putting the blame on commissioners for not recruiting staff and saying the only thing we can do is spend more money on recruitment. It seemed to me they were saying 'other people are to blame for this problem'.'

Lib Dem Mr Lamb also said he believed crews from Norfolk were being asked to answer 999 calls from much further afield.

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He added: 'Often it appears staff are called across borders – for example a Cromer crew end up in Suffolk or even Essex. Then the crew that is on duty for the next shift is stuck waiting.

'I am told staff are continually left waiting for a vehicle. The temptation is to drag them down to other emergencies – but the knock-on effect is very bad.'

Mid Norfolk Tory MP George Freeman added: 'It was an encouraging meeting after a shocking few months. However, there is a lot more to do to make sure that the best practice being developed elsewhere, in places like Hertfordshire, is being implemented here in Norfolk and the East.'

An EEAST spokesman said: 'We hold regular meetings with MPs and also send them regular updates. This meeting provided a number of MPs from the East of England region with more context to some of their questions around winter pressures, the risk summit and future plans.'

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