A major recruitment drive has been launched by the region’s under-fire ambulance service in a bid to hire hundreds of student paramedics.

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The new chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST), Dr Anthony Marsh, says the main aim is to help fill the large number of vacancies in the service and offer career opportunities to people in East Anglia.

He has also pledged to tackle the issues facing the trust and said the drive was “a great step forward for staff, patients and local communities”.

Dr Marsh added: “This programme will secure new employees for the service who will learn on the job and in the classroom.

“It is a great opportunity for anyone who has ever thought of becoming a paramedic and helping people in their community, sometimes in their greatest hour of need.

“We are aiming to recruit 400 students, and while this may be an ambitious target, it means we will have a whole lot of fully qualified paramedics on the road responding to our patients in the future.

“This is a great step forward for our service.”

The training programme for a student paramedic to qualify takes two and half years to complete and EEAST will then offer the successful participants full-time paramedic contracts.

Dr Marsh said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for people who want to work with us and who want to care for patients almost straight away.

“We will be giving students vital hands-on experience throughout the course, and offer of a job at the end of it.” As well as recruiting new students, the service is continuing to recruit graduate paramedics and qualified technicians and paramedics.

The ambulance service has faced increased pressure in recent months over failures to hit key targets.

At a board meeting in November, bosses said they still needed to boost frontline worker numbers – a review suggests the organisation needs 310 extra staff, including paramedics, in 2014/15.

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