Top of the league ambulance service

HEROES of a 999 revolution which has seen East Anglia's ambulance service shoot from rock bottom to top ratings, won praise across the board today, The Evening Star can reveal.


By Jessica Nicholls,

Health Reporter

HEROES of a 999 revolution which has seen East Anglia's ambulance service shoot from rock bottom to top ratings, won praise across the board today, The Evening Star can reveal.

After a dreadful few years in the 1990's, the service has steadily improved and today received a major accolade as it continues to turn the corner to a brighter future.

The East Anglian Ambulance Trust has learned it has been awarded the maximum three stars in the NHS performance ratings. Only 11 trusts out of the 30 assessed were given top marks.

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Among other criteria, the assessment covers response times, improving crews working lives, clinical negligence and financial management.

The accolade comes just a week after the trust was praised by the Health Which? report on response times, which highlighted it for its modernisation agenda and improvement across the board.

Where other trusts were accused of fiddling response times to mask their failings the statistics for East Anglia showed that the service was improving.

On hearing of the three star award today, Dr Chris Carney, chief executive of the trust said it was due recognition for a tremendous and sustained effort by everyone working in the trust.

He said: "It is wonderful to get such a public vote of confidence after the efforts and significant changes made by staff during the past two to three years.

"The changes have affected both the way we operate and the type of technology being used and it is the staff who are at the sharp end of these changes."

However Dr Carney acknowledged that the trust could not become complacent, stressing there was still much work to be done to improve the way the Trust works and increase the opportunities for staff development as well as the range of service to patients and their carers.

He said: "We have come a long way in a short space of time and delighted though we are by this news we must keep it in perspective.

"There are still areas in which we can improve and there are many challenges and opportunities facing the service in the coming months and years, but this is a good basis to move forward from."

It has been a tough few years for the trust who had come under fire for poor response times and the use of untrained staff.

In 1999, an NHS inquiry team - promoted by a major Evening Star investigation - called for major changes in a damning report which listed 34 recommendations for improvement to areas such as management training communication and response times.

The Evening Star's award winning campaign demanded that response times were improved as well as working conditions for the trusts dedicated staff.

It also called for control of the trust to be given back to Suffolk command. Frank Harradence became the new county commander and pledged to repair the damage that had been done by boosting the morale of crews.

He promised the voice of local staff would be heard at the top level and that their issues would be acted upon.

His sterling work with the trust helped rebuild the confidence that had been lost and following many years of hard work the trust has now proved it is top rate.

Andrew Egerton-Smith, trust chairman said: "It is brilliant news and I would like to thank the management team and their leadership and the really hard work all the staff have put in over the past two and a half years."

Chris Mole, Ipswich MP also added his support on hearing the good news. He said: "It has been a huge turn around from the position they were in a few years ago.

"I am encouraged that a service which is so vitally important to the people in Ipswich has been able to make such good progress in such a short time."

In an open letter to staff, health secretary Alan Milburn and NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp said: "This means you, your team and your colleagues throughout the Trust have achieved consistently high levels of performance in delivering services to patients.

"It would not have been possible without the hard work of all staff and we appreciate your effort in striving to deliver high quality services to patients. Thank you for your personal hard work and commitment."

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