Suffolk: MP hits out at rising management costs at ambulance service as target for response times is missed
PUBLISHED: 09:00 01 August 2011 | UPDATED: 17:39 01 August 2011
MANAGEMENT costs soared by £600,000 at the region’s ambulance service in a year as new figures reveal the trust failed to meet target response times in June, the EADT can reveal.
The East of England Ambulance Service’s chief executive Hayden Newton has been given a pay rise prompting Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter to condemn the trust’s spending on back office bureaucracy.
Figures released by the Department of Health reveal that in June the East of England Ambulance Service was one of two trusts in the UK who failed to hit the 95% standard target response time of an ambulance arriving at the scene in 19 minutes.
It comes at a time that the trust’s annual report reveals management costs soared by £600,000 in the last year while Mr Newton’s salary has increased from £143,000-£145,000 in 2009/10 to £145,000-£150,000 in 2010/11.
Dr Poulter branded the rise “completely unacceptable” claiming it, coupled with rising management costs are draining money away from where it is needed most, front line services.
But an ambulance spokeswoman said while the figures for the 19-minute response time were fractionally below the 95% target rate, over the course of the April, May and June, the service is actually hitting that target.
She said a 4% rise in call demand in emergency operations and implementation of the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) trained to deal with emergencies in difficult environments, has added to management costs.
“There has been a long-standing issue in the East of England, particularly in Suffolk, of slow ambulance response times in remote, rural areas,” said Dr Poulter.
“It is a very big concern. I think when we see £600,000 going into senior management and back office costs rather than the front line they are making that problem worse.
“We need to see a change in attitude in the service, to see the front line prioritised rather than back office.
“Until we see that we won’t see the high quality, rapid response times people in Suffolk deserve.
“It seems crazy to me that at a time when the NHS needs to cut bureaucracy costs the ambulance service is investing more than half-a-million in those very costs.”
Rising management costs incorporated non-clinical staff of all grades, senior managers and front line operational managers.
The ambulance spokeswoman said the increase was in the context of supporting the 4% rise in call demand in emergency operations, plus inflationary costs and the implementation of the HART team last October.
She added: “Increased investment in managing the organisation more effectively has resulted in a fall in operating unit costs.”
While failing to meet the 19-minute response time in June by 0.2%, the result of “unusual and significant levels of demand at the end of the month”, over the first three months of this financial year they are beating that target, achieving an average of 95.24%.
“The trust has beaten the target for the year to date however and continues to beat the 75pc standard of response to life threatening emergency calls within eight minutes,” the spokeswoman added.
Dr Poulter said Mr Newton’s pay rise, meaning he earns more than the prime minister is “fundamentally wrong.,
“At a time when all public service workers are taking a pay freeze it seems he has increased his pay and then frozen it. It is unacceptable.
“It is clearly a case where there is a lot of focus in the organisation on back office bureaucracy and supporting the management structure, while the front line is suffering, with patients in rural areas receiving a reduced quality as a result.”
The ambulance service spokeswoman said Mr Newton’s was given a standard cost of living salary rise, applicable to all NHS employees, and has now been frozen in line with all other public bodies as of April.
She said: “The Chief Executive Officer’s income went down overall taking into account bonus payments. The CEO salary is in line with others in very high level key roles in east of England public bodies and other ambulance CEOs nationally.
“It reflects the expertise and experience which is essential to oversee the delivery of a high quality service for patients as well as to ensure the organisation is in a stable position financially.”