Review orders more ambulances on the road and hospitals to check patients in quicker after winter crisis

The East of England Ambulance Service was the subject of a risk summit after allegations of patient

The East of England Ambulance Service was the subject of a risk summit after allegations of patient harm over Christmas and New Year. Picture: CRAIG PUSEY - Credit: Archant

The region’s ambulance trust will put extra crews on the road by using private ambulance services and hospitals have been ordered to take patients into A&E quicker.

Those are just two of the outcomes of a risk summit called last week by NHS England and NHS Improvement in response to concerns over how East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) coped over Christmas and New Year.

Held behind closed doors on January 30, the meeting between various health organisations looked into the hours upon hours of delays patients faced, where hospitals were inundated and ambulances were left queuing outside emergency departments.

And it was decided action must be taken by EEAST but also by the wider NHS.

The key actions required are:

• EEAST will deploy extra staff and vehicles between now and Easter, including the use of vehicles from independent providers;

• The trust will “improve its ability to forecast demand as part of strengthened winter planning”;

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• EEAST will also improve staff availability at peak times;

• Hospitals will be asked to accept prompt handover of patients from crews so they can get back out to other calls;

• Internal escalation procedures will be improved at EEAST;

• Commissioners and providers will look at how the moderate the use of ambulance services and explore safe alternatives;

• And all serious incidents which occurred over the winter period would be looked at to find out whether patients were harmed.

NHS England said there would be a follow-up meeting in two weeks to review the progress of the actions.

The risk summit was called following a three-week period of intense pressure on the region’s health service, which culminated in a dossier being released by a senior whistleblower at EEAST.

In the document, it was alleged that a man now known to be Anthony Barnard, 57, froze to death in Lowestoft while waiting for an ambulance.

The whistleblower said up to 80 people were harmed or died during the period.

EEAST previously said: “The trust is undertaking a rigorous analysis of that small proportion of calls. Where any suspected cases of potential harm are identified then the trust will exercise its duty of candour to notify patients or their families. It is best practice to always review the effectiveness of any plans and the trust will be doing that.”

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