East Anglia: 25 extra ambulances still not enough to improve response times - admits chief

Ambulance on fire in Witham

Ambulance on fire in Witham

THE chief executive of the region’s ambulance service has admitted that the deployment of 25 extra ambulances may not be enough as he presented plans to turnaround the fortunes of the ailing NHS trust.

Andrew Morgan has pledged to recruit an additional 351 front-line staff and expand the East of England Ambulance Service’s fleet of double staffed ambulances to deliver an improved service following months of concerns from patients, staff, MPs and the health regulator.

The interim chief executive yesterday admitted that the extra 25 ambulances may not be enough to fully resolve the slow response times across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

He said: “The extra 25 will help our situation, but my unscientific view is that it is not enough. I have a clear view that there are not enough ambulances out there. The 25 ambulances will undoubtedly help and every extra ambulance helps. It will help the gap, but I’m not sure it will completely fill it.”

Mr Morgan, who has been interim chief executive of the ambulance service since December following the retirement of Hayden Newton, presented his turnaround plan yesterday, which includes the recruitment of 82 specialist paramedics, 149 paramedics, 24 technicians and 96 emergency care assistants in 2013/14.

However, his proposals do not include the findings of Anthony Marsh, the chief executive of the West Midlands Ambulance Service, who has been parachuted in by the Department of Health to conduct a review of the failing trust. Mr Morgan said the turnaround plan would be amended and Mr Marsh’s final report was due next month.

“There are far more things we do well than we do badly. We have not be delivering our 999 service well enough. We need much better leadership and need to support our staff better.”

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“We have had too many plans and this plan will be delivered and will be regularly monitored. This is not one of those plans that will be put on the shelf somewhere,” he said.

The East of England Ambulance Service has been told to improve response times by the Care Quality Commission after an unannounced inspection earlier this year found the trust to be failing in the care and welfare of people that use its services.

Mr Morgan added that there would be changes on the board of the ambulance trust as it looks to deliver his 89-point turnaround plan, which aims to reduce the reliance on private ambulances and on the use of Rapid Response Vehicles. It comes as the trust experiences a 5pc increase of 999 calls year-on-year whilst having to make efficiency savings of around 5pc a year.

“We not pretending that everything is fantastic. It clearly is not, but it is sortable. This service is too important to muck it up,” he said.