East Anglia: New plan to turnaround failing ambulance service

Plans to employ more than 350 new frontline staff have been announced

Plans to employ more than 350 new frontline staff have been announced - Credit: Archant

A MASTERPLAN to turnaround the region’s failing ambulance service was last night welcomed by MPs and union leaders.

Proposals to employ more than 350 new frontline staff will be put to the East of England Ambulance Service board on Thursday.

Interim chief executive Andrew Morgan said the NHS trust was “letting down” patients and staff and committed an extra £5m to improve emergency operations this year, which will be focused on improving response times in rural areas.

Under the turnaround plan, Mr Morgan, has made a pledge to hire 351 paramedics, technicians, and emergency care assistants (ECA) as well as adding an additional 25 double staffed ambulances to its fleet in 2013/14.

But some critics questioned how the NHS trust would deliver what it promised at a time when it has to make more than £50m of savings. It comes as the organisation looks to address slow response times and raise staff morale following months of concerns from patients, staff, and MPs and calls by regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) to raise its game.

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Mr Morgan, former chief executive of NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said there had been a “lack of clear and visible leadership” and the pursuit of Foundation Trust status had resulted in a “lack of focus on the core business”.

He added that the NHS trust had become too reliant on the use of Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV), particularly in rural areas, and the use of private ambulances to attend patients.

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Key points of the turnaround plan include:

• The recruitment of 82 specialist paramedics, 149 paramedics, 24 technicians, and 96 ECAs in 2013/14.

• An extra 25 24/7 double staffed ambulances to add to the 170 ambulances already deployed.

• Appoint a new chairman as soon as possible.

• Seek to relocate the trust’s headquarters from a business park near Cambridge closer to front-line services.

• Reduce support functions by £2m in 2013/14.

• Reduce private ambulance costs by at least £500,000 a month.

Mr Morgan said high quality patient care and safety will be at the core of the organisation going forward.

“We know we work in changed times, we know that this is having an impact on the lives of our staff and we know that we are failing some of our patients. We have to change. We have to demonstrate better leadership. We have to support staff better. We have to provide more resources for front-line service delivery,” he said.

Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said the report was “good news” and it was essential that the extra resource was placed where need was greatest in rural Norfolk and Suffolk.

“There is going to be a recruitment drive for more front-line staff and I am heartened by the significant number of paramedics and specialist paramedics and in the past there was too much focus on ECAs and technicians and a lot of paramedics felt too much of the burden was being placed on them,” he said.

Therese Coffey, Suffolk Coastal MP, also welcomed the front-line recruitment drive and more double staffed ambulances.

“While it is good to see long list of potential improvements, there is little detail on how they will make it happen or when. I want more detail that we can track to give Suffolk residents more confidence that improvements will be made and quickly,” she said.

Gary Applin, Unison branch secretary, said the turnaround plan had the support of union members. “There are serious problems in the organisation that we have highlighted and the plan looks good on paper,” he said.

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