Hundreds of new student paramedics to operate across the East of England, but does Suffolk get a fair deal?



More than 400 student paramedics will be working on the frontline across East Anglia by the end of next month – but no more than 55 will be operating in Suffolk.

That is according to figures released by the region’s ambulance service yesterday as bosses at the Trust insisted the recruitment project would help improve performance.

According to the official data Suffolk will see 37 student paramedics working in the county, but this does not take into account Waveney and Yarmouth workers, which could lead to the figure increasing to 55.

In contrast, Essex is to gain 108 student paramedics, Cambridgeshire will get 66 and there will be 89 in Norfolk, which includes the Waveney paramedics.

Ambulance bosses have insisted the differences in figures is down to a number of factors, including where the paramedics are from and the number of vacancies in certain counties.

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust said: “In addition to the 37 new student paramedics in Suffolk, there are 18 in the Waveney area, which covers both the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft areas.

“Extra 24/7 double staffed ambulance shifts have also been added to the Saxmundham, Felixstowe, Ipswich and Thetford areas this year to improve our service to patients.

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“We have already started recruiting student paramedics for 2015/16 and we will have a further 25 new student paramedics working on ambulances by May in Suffolk.”

Health minister Dan Poulter, who is also Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, added: “This is just the first step towards increasing paramedic numbers. 50 more in the workforce will make a massive difference to morale and the ability of the ambulance service to have the frontline service staff to provide high quality patient care.

“This is not the end. It is just the beginning of investment in the East of England Ambulance Service.”

The figures have been released as the Trust’s interim chief executive, Dr Anthony Marsh, announced a new recruitment drive for 400 student paramedics will be launched in the 2015/16 financial year.

It will be funded through a mix of savings from management and administrative costs and support from commissioners and Health Education East.

He said: “More than 300 (paramedics) are already working on the front-line and the remaining new recruits will complete their initial training next month.”

“This is helping to improve EEAST’s performance and response times to patients. However, we know there is more work to do and that is why we will be aiming to recruit another 400 student paramedics in 2015/16 to help deliver further improvements and to keep up with demand.”

Annie Topping, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, added: “We are pleased to see that the commitments made in the Trust’s improvement plan have been followed through and that more paramedics have been recruited. Indeed, this can only be positive for patients.

“We hope the additional resources will make a positive difference to the experience of patients and their families in Suffolk.”

Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex said: “We welcome the news that new student paramedics will be joining ambulance teams across Essex and the East of England. Response times have been a concern for some time, so we hope that the recruitment of additional staff will help to improve the performance of EEAST, and ensure that patients are put at the heart of care.” A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, which lead the ambulance commissioning consortium said:

“This initial recruitment of 400 student paramedics forms one part of the programme of transformation at the East of England Ambulance Service, with additional recruitment planned for the coming year. Suffolk represents approximately 10% of the commissioning consortium area, which corresponds with the figure of 37 student paramedics. Our CCGs are working closely with the ambulance service to ensure patient care in Suffolk continues to improve and these student paramedics will contribute to that improvement. In 2014/15 the commissioning consortium committed £9 million of investment to bring about the changes needed to the service and we are pleased to witness this forward step in recovery.”