Who should pay air ambulance crew wages

A FUNDING wrangle is still continuing over who should pay the wages of flying paramedics aboard the East Anglian Air Ambulance.The charity-funded helicopter, which flew 90 missions and carried 45 patients last month is staffed by East Anglian Ambulance Trust paramedics and a pilot.

A FUNDING wrangle is still continuing over who should pay the wages of flying paramedics aboard the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

The charity-funded helicopter, which flew 90 missions and carried 45 patients last month is staffed by East Anglian Ambulance Trust paramedics and a pilot.

The cost of supplying the paramedics, falls on the cash-strapped EAAT at the moment.

But although the Department of Health has recommended health authorities immediately pick up the bill, new Primary Care Trusts across East Anglia now say they can't afford it either.


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The new PCTs, including five in Suffolk took over from the former county-wide health authorities in April, to commission health services like ambulances and hospitals with a tight budget from the outset.

EAAT chief executive Dr Chris Carney said: "The trust's commissioners, after consideration, feel that the healthcare systems across East Anglia cannot manage to fund air ambulance paramedics in 2002/2003.

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"This is as a result of the over commitment of NHS funds and the fact that funding air ambulance paramedics is not defined as a priority in the NHS plan or any other documents.

"We find ourselves therefore stuck in the middle of a direction from the Department of Health that insists the NHS should pay for these paramedics arriving at a time when commissioners cannot afford to comply with this direction – and leaving us with a difficult situation to resolve."

He added that the Department of Health had implied paramedics on air ambulance should not be funded by charity.

The subject was due to be discussed at the ambulance service's next board meeting in Norwich today.

The Star told in November how a spokesman for the air ambulance charity called for a uniform policy about flying paramedics' wages, which some charities in other parts of the country don't have to pay for.

In March, the air ambulance won a share of a £2.2m handout towards running costs as well as a Government promise to pay £150,000 each for staff.

The announcement came in the week the Automobile Association reduced its national sponsorship of air ambulances to the tune of half a million pounds locally.

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The president of Suffolk British Medical Association has said PCTs are not also equipped to deal with a large part of their responsibilities.

Dr Gareth Richards, who is also professional director on the executive committee of Central Suffolk PCT, said: "The main problem is that the Government is very hard on management costs. The desire to appear good in the eyes of the public has left the health authorities to pair management down to the bare bones.

"A lot of PCTs are struggling to put in place reasonable commissioning teams because of the paltry management figures they are given."

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