WRITTEN complaints to the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) have nearly doubled in just two years, new figures reveal.

The trust, which is trying to make efficiency savings of more than £50million over the next five years, received 686 grievances in 2011/12, compared with 356 two years ago. But EEAS said it has seen a 6 per cent hike in call numbers and that it has received nearly 2,000 compliments over the same period.

The ambulance service has been heavily criticised in the past couple of years for its under performance in meeting response times in rural areas. It is currently embarking on a controversial and radical redesign of where its response vehicles will be based, and what hours of cover they will provide.

A spokesman for EEAS said: "Last year - April 2011 to March 2012 - we received 686 complaints, representing less than 0.2 per cent of our total activity, which compared to nearly three times the number of compliments at 1,902 along with thank-you donations totalling more than £130,000.

"As well as a call rise of more than 6 per cent, issues related to the increase in complaints include public perception not matching the responsibility of the 999 service, with the majority of response time complaints relating to non-urgent patients, where the response target time is one hour, as well as hospital handover delays.

"Work is continuing with hospitals and the local primary care trusts to help resolve this issue and reduce the pressure on the ambulance service, enabling us to reach our patients more quickly.

"We are also embarking on a public education programme to better inform patients of our response time targets for different call priorities.

"We have robust investigation procedures in place to ensure that learning from the experiences of our patients, positive and negative, can help us improve our service and prevent any adverse incidents from recurring."