Suffolk: 999 staff warning that lives are at risk

WHISTLEBLOWING paramedics have today claimed a failure to replace vacant posts at the ambulance service will see crews spread too thinly across the county, putting patients’ lives at risk.

One of the staff members told The Star that morale was at an “all-time low” with reports of double-manned ambulances being crewed by just one paramedic.

He claimed that the plan to increase the number of rapid response vehicles (RRVs) to compensate for a reduction in double-staffed ambulances –which are required to transport patients to hospital – will not work as crews are already facing a struggle to cover all the calls for patients needing to go to A&E, particularly at night.

This comes in response to criticism from public service trade union, Unison, who last week said that the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) is planning to axe 150 jobs.

Ambulance bosses hit back at the “inaccurate information”, saying no posts will be lost but added that some vacant positions will not be filled as part of a restructuring plan which aims to allow the service to react better to demand across the region.

The whistleblower said: “This all has a knock-on effect whereby solo responders are still having to wait excessive times on scene with patients for an ambulance to arrive and transport the patient to hospital. It is not uncommon for an ambulance to come from Suffolk into Essex and vice versa to transport a patient to hospital.

“Staff morale is at an all-time low.”

Most Read

Another whistleblower added: “This will put patients’ lives at risk. We are already under pressure and missing response times and this will just add to it.”

Backing their concerns, Tim Roberts, of Unison, said there will be a reduction in the number of highly qualified paramedics with ambulances being staffed by emergency care assistants, “who don’t have the skills to care for critical patients”.

Criticising a rise in the number of RRVs, Mr Roberts said solo responders, “can provide medical interventions at the scene but cannot transport patients anywhere”.

“We accept that there won’t be anybody losing their job, but they are taking out around 250 posts and reducing the service accordingly,” he told The Star.

“Crews are already reporting that they are being sent further and further distances to respond to incidents and the rota changes are going to make it even worse as resources are spread more thinly.”

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter said he was concerned by the claims from people working on the frontline.

“If the service is spread more thinly there will be a risk to lives,” he said. “It is the patients who will suffer as people will be waiting for longer.

Ambulance bosses said new plans to better meet demand will improve services for patients and involve a �400,000 boost to rural services.

EEAST said the revamp will help pinpoint when demand is at its highest and which standby points are best placed for vehicles to get to the most patients in the shortest amount of time.

An EEAST spokeswoman said the trust is launching a drive to recruit more than 110 emergency care assistants across the six counties they cover.

Hayden Newton, chief executive of the trust, said: “We would like to reassure members of the public that these improvements will see patients benefit while we make more effective use of taxpayers’ money and boost staff numbers. No staff are being made redundant.

“Our strategy addresses three challenges: dealing with an ever increasing number of 999 calls, making savings through more efficient working of more than �50million over five years and improving the quality of services to patients.

“The redesign of our frontline rotas is better for patients and the public as it will better match our resources to patient demand. Put together all these improvements means we can continue providing an excellent service in a sustainable manner, cutting down on inappropriate ambulance dispatches and unnecessary hospital admissions and allowing our clinicians to concentrate on patients who really need them.

“This ensures patients get the right treatment in the right place at the right time.”

Tell us your experiences of the ambulance service.