Paramedics ‘forced to make impossible choices’ by new ambulance policy, MEP says

East of England Ambulance Service

East of England Ambulance Service - Credit: Archant

An MEP has criticised the ‘sharing’ of ambulances by the East of England Ambulance Service Trust.

Alex Mayer MEP

Alex Mayer MEP - Credit: Archant

Alex Mayer, MEP for the eastern region, says the service is hoping to improve the speed they get to patients by dispatching ambulances that already have a patient on board, but, as a result, they are forcing paramedics to make ‘impossible choices’.

It is understood the policy was adopted in August in a bid to improve response times to get to patients with life-threatening injuries or illnesses, known as category one calls.

“What a mess,” Ms Mayer said. “The East of England Ambulance service is on the front line, hemmed in by queues at A&E and attending more call outs because of cuts to social care. This is an NHS crisis made in Downing Street that needs a holistic solution. I’m worried for patients and for hardworking paramedics who are being forced to make impossible choices.”

However, the ambulance trust has said incidents where ambulances already carrying patients may attend another call are rare.

Robert Morton, chief executive at the East of England Ambulance Trust, and Dr Tom Davis, medical director said: “There are rare situations where a crew who are transporting a clinically stable patient may be passing close by to a life-threatening category one incident.

“In such rare circumstances, it is absolutely right that the crew are contacted to assess if it is clinically safe for the patient on board, if the crew were to stop at the incident and give immediate life-saving care before the arrival of the next closest ambulance or car.”

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A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said it would be at the discretion of each clinical crew to decide whether their stable patient’s welfare would be unduly jeopardised by diverting to the category one incident.

“We had support from our clinical commissioning groups who have ensured we have more funding to pay for more staff and ambulance to help to make improvements to our performance,” the spokesman said. “It will take time to get the right numbers of staff and vehicles in place. This long term plan therefore needs support of a shorter term plan, entirely focused on those with life-threatening injuries.

“It is entirely right that we make these decision with the clinicians involved. It is ok for them to say no. Clinicians would only ever be expected to divert to a category one incident to give immediate assistance for those few minutes until another ambulance arrives.

“Most of our ambulances contain a wide range of modern equipment for assessing and treating patients on the scene, and cannot transport more than one stretchered patient at a time.”