Suffolk: Ambulance bosses hit out at “scaremongering” union claims

UNION claims that a change in staff shift patterns will reduce the 999 service in Suffolk have been described as “misleading and scaremongering” by East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) bosses.

The trust have said they are currently reviewing staff rotas across the county’s ambulance stations so that “underused resources” in areas of low demand will be moved to where they are needed most.

But ambulance union chiefs claimed the proposals, part of plans to save �50million over five years, will mean Suffolk patients will see a reduction in the 999 service.

Unison Branch Secretary, Gary Applin, said they were particularly concerned about a reduction of double staffed ambulances (DSAs) and an increased reliance on rapid response vehicles (RRVs), which are unable to take people to hospital.

Mr Applin said: “We are really concerned that there will be detrimental effect on patient care caused by these cuts. Patients in need of emergency care are going to have to wait longer to be transported to hospital as a result of these changes.”

It is proposed that Bury St Edmunds will lose two DSAs, Thetford will lose two DSAs and one RRV at certain times of the day. Sudbury will also lose one of its DSAs.

But EEAST bosses said they were disappointed that Unison’s “scaremongering” statements failed to reflect the range of improvements being made to the service patients receive, including increased services in Felixstowe, Ipswich, Newmarket and Thetford.

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Hayden Newton, Chief Executive of EEAST, said: “Taken as a whole these changes will only benefit patients and staff. Resources will simply be moved to where and when they are needed more in the best interests of patients and the vehicle make up may also be different to reflect patient demand.

“No staff are being made redundant and in fact we are recruiting around 150 more.”

A spokeswoman added: “We are currently discussing these changes with staff and asking them to get involved locally in the design of their rotas. Staff have the local knowledge to enhance these rotas further and it also gives them the opportunity to see how we get more flexibility into our rotas for staff while better matching resources to demand.”

Harper Brown, from NHS Norfolk and Waveney which are the lead Commissioners, said: “We can reassure members of the public that the 999 service will not be compromised. The changes that the ambulance service is putting in place are designed to improve emergency responses to patients.”

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