Paramedics fears over ambulance service

THE head of the region's ambulance service has moved to deny claims that the system is in crisis following new allegations from concerned paramedics.Paul Henry, acting director of operations for the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust, spoke out after a number of paramedics contacted the East Anglian Daily Times to criticise the service.

THE head of the region's ambulance service has moved to deny claims that the system is in crisis following new allegations from concerned paramedics.

Paul Henry, acting director of operations for the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust, spoke out after a number of paramedics contacted the East Anglian Daily Times to criticise the service.

The claims were made just days after former ambulance technician John Hollywood, who spent 36 years on the frontline in London, Bury St Edmunds, Thetford and Mildenhall, told of his concerns about the service being over- stretched.

According to one paramedic who spoke to the EADT, there were just five ambulances covering the whole of Suffolk on Wednesday night, when there should have been 11.


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Similarly in Ipswich there was only the one person on duty when there should have been three ambulances made up of two crew members.

The picture for the weekend is no better with the service operating at just 25% of its capacity on Sunday, with the usual 12 crew members down to three.

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Meanwhile, another paramedic said: “This situation has been going on for at least a year and is getting worse and worse and worse.

“Crews plead to be stood down for a break, but they may be the only cover in Suffolk. At times, there is only one ambulance in the Suffolk area.

“To meet targets, areas such as Ipswich are flooded with ambulances, leaving the rural areas totally uncovered.”

Elsewhere it was claimed that it took one paramedic so long to get to a patient in Mildenhall that the lady almost died from blood loss.

“You are run ragged for 12 hours. Sometimes we can spend the whole shift going backwards and forwards up and down the A14 all night,” he added.

“Very often in Bury there is only one person manning an ambulance all through the night. We lose vehicles from one area to cover another, then are left with no coverage in the first area.

“Our managers are in total denial. We are really now asking for help as things are intolerable. We just cannot go on like this.”

But Mr Henry moved to dispel any fears that public safety would be put at risk.

“We do recognise that there are issues and that we have to work hard to maintain our levels of activity,” he said.

“On Wednesday night we had to manage with five-and-a-half vehicles in Suffolk, when we should have had 11 but our level of service did not suffer.

“I do not want to alert the public that we are under-performing. In fact we are doing better than the national target.

“On Wednesday for example we reached 76.19% of critical patients in less than eight minutes, compared to the Government set target of 75%.

“With the year to date we have reached 77% of patients within the target time. All this has been achieved against a backdrop of rising activity – in February alone we had 15% more calls – so we are under pressure.

“As far as the weekend goes it is looking poor in terms of cover but in the next few days we will be working hard to get the level up to the required number, using local staff, overtime workers and paramedics from other sectors.”

Mr Henry said that the low numbers were down to a “busy and aggressive” training programme for many of the paramedics over the past six to eight weeks.

“As far as response targets are concerned the trust operates to national standards of performance and we position crews in areas where we think they will be needed at certain times of the day,” he said.

“We try to provide a skilled rapid response first, although an ambulance will still be on the way, so that the patient can be assessed to see if they need an ambulance.

“In 30-40% of cases it is not required and so it can be stood down freeing up resources. Otherwise it will proceed to the scene.”

He continued: “With regards to staff morale a recent Health Care Commission survey of around 50% of our staff noted that we had made significant improvements.

“We were also among the 20% best trusts nationally when it came to staff not having to have time off through work related stress and injury. However this doesn't mean we will be getting complacent.”

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