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Some ambulance workers are preparing to stage a demonstration over plans to change the way vehicles are sent out, which they say will lead to poor response times and spending cuts.
Staff from the East Anglian Ambulance Service who are part of the GMB union say they're worried job cuts will put lives in danger, and are planning to protest outside the East of England Ambulance Trust board meeting.
They say that the EEAS Trust is moving away from vehicles with qualified staff that are able to respond to all types of emergencies, to vehicles that are not equipped or staffed to deal with all emergencies. They say it'll mean, in many cases two vehicles will be sent to each call which will put greater pressure on the system, and will mean there are fewer emergency vehicles available than there are now.
However, the EEAT say Ambulance rota changes to retain existing staff and provide an improving service to patients while needing to save £50m over the next five years will see resources taken out from areas and times of underuse and put in where and when they are most needed.
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) is required to save this money as its part of overall NHS efficiency savings. But EEAST is avoiding the need for redundancies and, as well as keeping all its existing staff – at nearly double the number compared to five years ago – is recruiting 140 emergency care assistants (ECAs) for non-emergency work so more skilled medics will be available for life-threatening emergencies which make up just a small percentage of total calls. This means more efficient use of resources and tax payers’ money. It is all thanks to the most sophisticated demand analysis to date informing revisions to rotas to ensure crews and where and when they are really needed.
In addition, the removal of rota lines that have been vacant for some time has been made possible by the introduction last year of clinical support desks (CSDs) in the control room saving 900 unnecessary ambulance journeys a week. Instead the CSDs signpost patients who don’t need an ambulance response to more appropriate treatment. And the Trust will be significantly cutting down on the number of planned current shifts which currently go unfilled on a daily basis for the best possible cover with comprehensive plans to reduce absence from 28% to 20% by better management of course attendance, holiday and sickness. More tailored rotas based on a clear demonstration of need also means local cover will be more protected as vehicles will be better ringfenced within their assigned community instead of being routinely drawn out to urban areas further afield as at present. Hayden Newton, Chief Executive of EEAST, said: “We face the challenge of saving £50m over five years as our part of cost savings but we are finding a way forward while protecting staff and patients with more efficient and intelligent use of resources. “With 900 calls a week no longer being sent an ambulance unnecessarily, the most sophisticated review ever undertaken of the service demonstrates that, by matching resources to demand while more effectively ringfencing crews to local areas – so those areas are actually better covered than at present when crews are routinely sent elsewhere – we can find a way forward while maintaining patient care, building on improved response times and keeping frontline staff at nearly double the number five years ago. “Vehicle make up may be different to reflect patient demand more efficiently when only about half of the patients we attend on scene need to be taken to hospital.”