Paramedics honoured for life-saving work

AMBULANCE staff have been honoured at a special awards ceremony – held in the same place as the regional inquiry into the service's failings three years ago.

By Tracey Sparling

AMBULANCE staff have been honoured at a special awards ceremony – held in the same place as the regional inquiry into the service's failings three years ago.

Andrew Egerton-Smith, chairman of the East Anglian Ambulance Service, has spoken of the service's turnaround, after joining Lord Belstead, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, to hand out medals, certificates and bouquets to 34 frontline, patient transport services and support staff.

"This is an opportunity to get together and show our appreciation to the people who must be thanked for the achievements we've made," said Mr Egerton-Smith at the Bedford Lodge Hotel in Newmarket.

"Three years ago I was in this same room receiving brickbats from the press, at the announcement of the regional inquiry. We had a failed radio system, a number of relatively new ambulances which were taken off the road.

"Public confidence was falling and the commissioners' confidence in the service was also falling. Sickness was very high, as were the health and safety incidents. Hardly surprisingly we were getting a lot of complaints. When I travelled, staff made complaints at being left at the side of the road on standby, the uniforms and vehicles were poor.

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"When I sat here then I could not imagine that three years later an awful lot of it would be remedied.

"We have county structures, we measure supply and demand, there are new vehicles, new uniforms, a new accredited clinical school, our Patient Transport Service has the quality standard ISO9000, we have response posts, community paramedics and an air ambulance.

"What's happened has been a completely new approach; we've become part of the wider NHS and are very clearly doing what's best for patients.

"But I certainly would not want everyone to think everything's right, because there's an awful lot to be done. But we've made huge inroads.

"We've now hit 75 per cent for March, we have far more public confidence and support and we have a much better press than you could ever have hoped for a few years ago.

"We have the firm foundations laid which will serve us well in the future, and I thank everyone in the service for their efforts."

Dr Chris Carney, chief executive, thanked all the staff for their efforts.

"We've achieved the 75pc, which was essential. But now we must work to get greater staff and patient involvement in the decision making processes in the trust," he added.

"We must now concentrate on making the trust a better place to work for staff and we know we are not there yet, but we are beginning to move forward."

Twenty-one staff also received East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust Long Service Awards for 25 years' work, consisting of a certificate and shopping vouchers worth £100.

Queens Medals for long service and good conduct went to staff including Roy Stratford, technician at Felixstowe, Phil Dale paramedic at Felixstowe, Anthony Brown paramedic at Felixstowe and Norman Keen technician at Ipswich.

Long service vouchers were given to Kevin Gooden, paramedic at Ipswich, John Earl and Andrew Last, technicians at Bury St Edmunds.