East of England Ambulance Service faced 3,200 calls per day over “exceptionally busy” winter

Ambulance control rooms were inundated with calls over winter. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ambulance control rooms were inundated with calls over winter. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

The East of England Ambulance Service answered 3,200 calls per day over the winter period, new data shows.

Figures supplied by the trust to Suffolk County Council’s health scrutiny committee showed that between December 17 and January 16 the three control rooms received 96,000 calls, described as “exceptionally busy”.

On New Year’s Eve alone the trust was inundated by 4,800 calls – the first time that level of demand had been seen over the festive period, up from 4,100 calls on December 31 2016.

A spokesman from the trust said that it was urging the public to use 999 wisely during those periods when huge demand meant cases had to be prioritised.

The report said: “Every day over this period, a gold commander worked with the executive management team to prioritise our most critically ill and injured patients.

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“The trust also remained in close contact with our NHS partners about pressures they were experiencing to ensure any emerging trends were addressed.”

Figures presented to the committee revealed that the number of near-miss serious incidents – those which could have been serious but were not such as ambulance delays and information governance breaches – had soared from around 100 in 2015 to 800 last year.

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The trust attended a risk summit in January in Westminster where serious incidents were discussed.

Tracy Nicholls, acting director of clinical quality and improvement, said a dedicated team investigated such incidents – even where no harm was caused to patients.

She added: “As a service, we have a robust system in place to constantly review trends and themes to enable us to make any identified necessary improvements and reduce any harm to patients where possible.

“This system has been tested by our regulators and no issues have been found with our stringent processes.

“We have also seen a sustained increase in our staff reporting such incidents, which is positively welcomed as we continue to focus on bettering our service.

“Our focus has been on quality improvement and over the past two years we’ve seen a reduction in harm to patients as a result in this change of approach.

“Our ongoing priority is delivering a high level of service.”

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