Extra frontline staff promised for Cambs ambulance service

East of England Ambulance Service

East of England Ambulance Service - Credit: Archant

MORE more than 350 new front-line staff are being recruited to turnaround the performance of the region’s ambulance service.

The interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service said the NHS trust was “letting down” patients and staff and has committed an extra £5million to improve emergency operations this year, which will mainly be used to improve response times in rural areas.

Under a turnaround plan, Andrew Morgan, has made a pledge to hire 82 specialist paramedics, 149 paramedics, 24 technicians, and 96 emergency care assistants (ECA) as well as adding an additional 25 double staffed ambulances to its fleet in 2013/14.

The trust aims to make £500,000 savings each month by reducing its spend on private ambulances and will look at moving its headquarters from Cambourne.

The action plan, which will be presented at the ambulance trust’s board meeting in Norwich on Thursday, was widely welcomed. However, some critics questioned how the NHS trust would deliver what it promised at a time when it has to make more than £50m of savings. It comes as the organisation looks to address slow response times and raise staff morale following months of concerns from patients, staff, and MPs and calls by the healthcare regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) to raise its game.

Mr Morgan, former chief executive of NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said there had been a “lack of clear and visible leadership” at the East of England Ambulance Service, and the pursuit of Foundation Trust status had resulted in a “lack of focus on the core business”.

He added that the NHS trust had become too reliant on the use of Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV), particularly in rural areas, and the use of private ambulances to attend patients.

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“We know we work in changed times, we know that this is having an impact on the lives of our staff and we know that we are failing some of our patients. We have to change. We have to demonstrate better leadership. We have to support staff better. We have to provide more resources for front-line service delivery,” he said.

Mr Morgan has also pledged to reduce staff sickness in the trust which is around 10 per cent.

“It is clear that some of our behaviours in the past have been unacceptable and unprofessional. Some staff have talked of being bullied. This approach or behaviour has no place in this trust,” he said.

Gary Applin, Unison branch secretary for the East of England Ambulance Service, said the turnaround plan had the support of union members.

“There are serious problems in the organisation that we have highlighted and the plan looks good on paper. We will continue to work together with the CEO in partnership to make sure that areas of improvement which are highlighted within the plan are implemented. We will also challenge if things are not changed for the benefit of staff and patients,” he said.