Ambulance Watch: 999 trust faces £1.5m fine for not hitting key targets

An East of England Ambulance Service ambulance in Norwich.

An East of England Ambulance Service ambulance in Norwich. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The region's under-performing ambulance service is set to be fined £1.5m for not hitting key response times - four months after it received an extra £12m to improve performance.

East of England Ambulance Service Trust CEO Anthony Marsh. Photo: Steve Adams

East of England Ambulance Service Trust CEO Anthony Marsh. Photo: Steve Adams

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST), which has been criticised for slow responses over the last two years, has incurred the financial penalties from the GP-led groups in charge of NHS purse strings.

The NHS trust is facing a £1.2m fine from 19 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) for the first four months of the 2014/15 financial year for not attending to at least 75pc of the most urgent 999 calls within eight minutes.

The service is also facing a £300,000 fine for hospital turnaround delays. Every ambulance is supposed to be ready for its next call-out within 15 minutes of handing over a patient to A&E.

News of the fine comes after the CCGs pledged an additional £12m to the ambulance service in 2014/15 to assist with its transformation plan to recruit 400 new student paramedics, put more ambulances on the roads, and help the redundancy costs of a back office restructure. However, the extra cash came with an expectation that performance would improve.

Wendy Tankard, chief contracts officer at Ipswich and East and West Suffolk CCGs and lead for the East of England Ambulance Consortium said: 'NHS contracts contain national mandatory financial consequences in addition to local financial consequences for ambulance trusts and other NHS providers who do not meet national or local performance standards. These standards are applied to ensure that services provide high quality, safe and effective care and deliver the best possible outcomes for patients.'

'Mandatory financial consequence to date are £1.5m and a proportion of this will be applied at the end of the year. They will continue to incur financial consequences if performance standards are not met.'

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'The Commissioning Consortium will continue to work with and monitor EEAST to address areas of under performance and ensure those improvements are made to ensure our population receives the best possible care.'

The service's chief executive Anthony Marsh said last month that he hoped to start hitting response targets by the end of the year, but it would take another two years to fully turn around the fortunes of the 999 trust.

Responding to the looming financial penalties, he said: 'We are working hard to turnaround the ambulance service, such as recruiting hundreds of new front-line staff, bringing in new emergency ambulances, upskilling our staff and on target to have identified £10m of savings in back office functions and management - money which will be reinvested in more front-line staff. All of these actions are helping us to improve our service to patients.'

'We are really pleased with the support from our Clinical Commissioning Groups, especially in the significant investment they have put into the ambulance service this year to enable us to make some of these changes. Obviously, as we get closer to the end of the year we will be working closely with commissioners to discuss the impact of any fines and how these might be managed.'

The fines come after it emerged this week that Dr Marsh, who is also CEO of the West Midlands Ambulance Service, claimed almost £5,000 in expenses for hotels this year.

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