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Essex Ambulance Action Plan unveiled

PUBLISHED: 05:34 30 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:13 24 February 2010

AMBULANCE bosses in Essex have drawn up an action plan after a drop by 10% in the response rate to 999 calls.

According to Government guidelines 75% of ambulances must get to immediate life-threatening calls within eight minutes.

AMBULANCE bosses in Essex have drawn up an action plan after a drop by 10% in the response rate to 999 calls.

According to Government guidelines 75% of ambulances must get to immediate life-threatening calls within eight minutes.

Essex Ambulance Service achieved this target early and met it for 15 months, but since June the response rate has deteriorated until last month it was down to 65%.

An Ambulance Service spokeswoman said the falling performance was due to a number of factors such as staff sickness and the departure of senior staff - including chief executive Gron Roberts.

In addition, in November and December last year there were more 999 calls than expected which put extra pressure on staff.

The service's acting director of operations Richard Lane said: "We recognise the need to meet and sustain performance and are putting a number of measures in place in an effort to improve response times and support staff."

The package of improvements include:

nAn increase in the number of trainee paramedics by 32 - 16 are currently in training.

nAn increase in emergency control staff manning.

nAn increase in the number of radio channels from two to three to improve the mobilisation of dispatching vehicles and reduce pressure on the emergency dispatchers.

nStaff will be paid for the first hour of "running over time" which up to now has been incorporated in their basic salary.

nA performance-related pay scheme on the non-emergency patient transport service will be scrapped and from this weekend all staff on the scheme will have the "bonus" incorporated into their salary - which represents an pay rise of up to £2,000.

Mr Lane added: "We are currently examining ways in which we can significantly improve our fleet and equipment to ensure that we have adequate resources to meet the ever increasing demand."

Unison branch secretary Peter Redfern applauded the proposed changes and said he was sure staff would make every effort to improve performance.

Both Essex Strategic Health Authority and North East Essex Community Health Council have raised concerns about the falling response rate.

Joan Smith, chief officer at the CHC, said: "We have expressed our concerns, particularly because a large part of our area is rural. The situation needs to be addressed with some urgency."

ESHA chief executive Terry Hanafin said: "We are disappointed the ambulance service is currently not achieving the Government's targets of reaching at least 75% of urgent calls within eight minutes.

"However we are confident that the patient care provided by the ambulance staff is excellent."

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