East Anglia: More frontline staff needed to reduce ambulance service £1m a month overtime bill

Ambulance on fire in Witham

Ambulance on fire in Witham

THE region’s ambulance service is being urged to increase frontline staff numbers after it emerged the trust has paid more than £1million a month in overtime for the last year.

The under-fire East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) spent more than £12m in 2012 as a result of its 4,000 staff working overtime.

Paramedics and union officials said the figures, obtained in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, demonstrated how overworked staff needed extra help.

The ambulance service is trying to address high staff sickness levels, hiring around 200 more paramedics and emergency care assistants as well as redesigning rotas to improve the performance of the NHS trust, which has been told to address slow response times by health regulator, the Care Quality Commission.

Figures from the FoI show that the EEAS spent more than £1m a month for the last 12 months on staff overtime, which includes emergency, non-emergency, primary care, control room and support staff. Overtime payments peaked when they paid more than £1.2m in January and February.

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Tony Hughes, GMB union organiser for the ambulance service, said the trust would reduce sickness rates and raise morale if it deployed more frontline staff.

“They do not have enough staff to cover the number of calls and they have to pay overtime when crews overrun,” he said.

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“You see a lot of people claiming two to three hours on the end of each shift and the new crew will be at the ambulance station waiting for the old crew to come back.”

The ambulance service’s rota redesign was completed this week.

However, one paramedic said that staff who had been on eight and 10-hour shifts were being asked to stay on to do 12-hour shifts to cover staff shortages.

A spokesman for the service said the adverse and cold weather so far this year had put added pressure on the NHS trust.

“The recruitment of more staff, reducing sickness absence levels and working with hospitals to tackle patient handover delays will all help.

“Alongside this, the trust has commissioned a clinical capacity review to understand what resources it really needs to meet patient demand,” he said.

What do you think needs to be done to improve the ambulance service? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email starletters@archant.co.uk

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