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Ambulance Watch: Pledge to continue front-line recruitment drive next year to turn around fortunes of 999 trust

PUBLISHED: 14:44 26 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:44 26 September 2014

First of the 400 student paramedics training at Norfolk ambulance HQ. Photo: Melvyn Sibson

First of the 400 student paramedics training at Norfolk ambulance HQ. Photo: Melvyn Sibson

The region’s ambulance service will need to repeat a major front-line recruitment drive next year in order to start hitting key response times, its chief executive warned yesterday.

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) is close to completing a plan to hire 400 new student paramedics this year, its board of directors were told.

However, CEO Anthony Marsh said the under-performing trust would need to replicate the recruitment of more lifesavers next year to get the front-line staffing numbers needed to turnaround the fortunes of the organisation.

A meeting in Thetford also heard that EEAST faced being fined more than £6m by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) this year for not hitting response targets.

Latest figures for the month of August show that the ambulance trust responded to 69.3pc of the most urgent 999 calls within eight minutes. The target is 75pc.

Dr Marsh said the trust needed to have more than 2,700 staff working on the front-line in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire and operational workforce levels were currently at the 2,200 mark.

“It is great to see hundreds of staff joining our organisation. We will probably have to replicate that next year and we are starting conversations with CCGs to replicate the funding and support next year.

“The simple matter is that there are not enough paramedics and has a huge impact on staff and a huge impact on patients when there are delays. That is why we are putting so much energy to front-line staffing,” he said.

More than 370 of 400 new student paramedics have already been recruited at EEAST and 75 emergency care assistants have signed up to become technicians this year. Another 57 emergency technicians have joined student paramedic courses and 29 graduate paramedics have been hired at the ambulance trust in 2014.

However, Matt Broad, locality director for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, said the number of 999 calls continue to rise year-on-year and there were still ambulance delays happening at busy A&E departments in Norfolk.

He added that three Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officer (HALO) roles would return to the three counties from next week as part of extra NHS money to address winter pressures.

Have you got a story about the ambulance service? Email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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