East ambulance service ‘complacent’ – Hunts MP

HUNTINGDON MP Jonathan Djanogly this week accused the ambulance service of complacency, and promised to press for better management in the East of England.

His comments followed a meeting with the chairman and deputy chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service at Westminster on Monday, which was attended by several of the region’s MPs.

Mr Djanogly was furious that the ambulance trust’s chief executive, Hayden Newton, had pulled out of the meeting at the 11th hour, and said it was clear that problems faced by his constituents were replicated across the six counties served by the trust.

“The trust said it had a 95 or 96 per cent satisfaction rating, and that the service was working very well,” he told The Hunts Post yesterday (Tuesday).

“I think there are grounds for concern, and there was a general feeling [among the MPs present] that there was an element of complacency, which worried me.

“But I’m not complacent about it. I want it investigated further, and the area’s MPs will work in a concerted way to get an improved service.”

Mr Djanogly put two concerns to the chairman: that cities were being prioritised over rural areas, and that ‘999’ patients were being given priority over elderly patients referred as emergencies by their GPs.

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“They did not agree, but I had three complaints of that recently in short space of time, and that experience was reflected in other counties.”

The MP said he was concerned that management was not as good as it could be. “We don’t get the same level of complaints from elsewhere in the country,” he added.

The meeting addressed key issues relating to the ambulance service’s performance, including handover times at hospitals, rural response times, transparency of data, and the recruitment of frontline staff.

Afterwards, Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said she felt there would be “immediate action” from the meeting, in particular on the handling of complaints.

“What had been taking months should now take a few weeks,” she said.

“More frontline staff are being taken on, with 16 new people in Suffolk in two weeks’ time.”

She said the MPs had read “a litany” of individual problems, and had called for greater openness on handover and response times.

The service has “some way to go on instilling confidence”, said Dr Coffey, but the parties will meet again to discuss what data can be made available regularly.

She said: “There is a way forward. I believe that board members finally understood quite how concerned MPs are. We will meet again in the new year.”

An ambulance service spokesman said it was committed to providing a “good, safe service” to all patients and had invested �400,000 in rural areas recently, along with introducing rotas which would “better place crews where and when patients need them to improve response times further.”

The spokesman added: “Despite being required to save �50m over the next five years as our part of the overall NHS efficiency savings, the trust is making no cuts and is in fact recruiting more frontline staff as well as working on improving response times.

“We look forward to meeting with MPs to discuss ways in which they may be able to help us improve further.”