Ambulance volunteers deserve to claim for mileage expenses, says Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey
Emergency volunteers who work for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) should be allowed to claim for mileage expenses, a Suffolk MP has said.
Therese Coffey, Suffolk Coastal MP, has pressed Rob Morton, the new chief executive of the EEAST, to allow the trust’s community first responders (CFRs) to be reimbursed.
The EEAST is one of only three non-metropolitan ambulance trusts that does not reimburse CFRs for the mileage they undertake voluntarily, according to Dr Coffey.
CFRs are volunteer members of the public trained to deal with a wide range of potentially life-threatening incidents until an ambulance arrives at the scene. They give up their own time to serve their community.
Dr Coffey said: “I think it’s crucial that these life-saving volunteers are looked after and reimbursed for the mileage they cover.
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“They save lives and cannot be taken for granted, which is why I have urged Rob Morton, the new chief executive, to consider covering their mileage so that they can continue to do vital work in their communities.
“Community first responders are involved in 14.5% of call-outs that ambulances respond to in the East of England, the third highest of all regions in England.
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“Yet, the East of England Ambulance Trust is one of only three non-metropolitan regions in the country not to cover mileage expenses for their CFRs.
“In order to retain them and attract new recruits in the future, the ambulance trust needs to demonstrate to them how much they are valued.”
In response, Mr Morton said reimbursing the CFRs would be a “challenging commitment”.
He said: “When we met Dr Coffey at our meeting in Westminster last week, she did raise this matter with us.
“Our volunteers play an important role in responding to emergencies within their communities. There are often mixed views across the volunteer communities about reimbursements as, in some cases, some people believe payment of any kind could potentially undermine the absolute altruistic spirit that volunteers demonstrate every day in their communities.
“The matter of covering travel costs and the means by which this could be done would raise questions regarding the source of funding, potential tax implications for those in receipt, and the corporate implications of needing to employ additional administrative staff to process potentially hundreds of claims.
“At a time of fiscal constraint and at a time when EEAST has shed many administrative jobs to transfer funding to employing more patient-facing staff, this would be a challenging commitment to agree to.”