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17.09.18

Struggling ambulance trust to send occupied vehicles to emergency calls

The East of England ambulance services trust will send ambulances with stable patients already on board to new, more life-threatening emergencies in a bid to improve response times.

Ranked in the worst 10 ambulance trusts in England for category one response times last month, this is part of an 18-point plan to improve that record and was outlined in a document seen exclusively by the Guardian.

The trust has also adopted plans to send patient service vehicles to life-threatening calls and to use the RNLI to respond to emergency calls.

East of England have defended the new policy as “absolutely right” in rare circumstances, but staff and MPs have described the trust’s policy of diverting ambulances as “crazy” and “dangerous.”

The policy has been adopted by the trust – which serves Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk – but critics fear that first responders could be forced into choosing between the welfare of different patients.

A senior paramedic at the trust, who asked not to be named, told the Guardian that staff weren’t told about the new policies and was “horrified” when he found out.

He said: “It’s desperate, I’ve never heard anything like this. A paramedic might have a clinically stable patient on board but if that patient then becomes unstable and you’re sitting on scene with perhaps two unstable patients, what do you do?

“Do you separate one of them from the equipment? Who do you pick?

“The backup time now is so bad that a vehicle could be waiting for one, two, three hours with two patients,” he added.

“The first person might have already been waiting for ages, only to be diverted to another call on the way to hospital. It’s not safe for patients and it’s not safe for staff – there should be enough vehicles and enough staff for each patient.”

In July, East of England ambulance service trust were praised for their “visionary and compassionate” leadership following a poor CQC report.

But last month, the trust’s chief executive Robert Morton announced his resignation after he was criticised over staff shortages, emergency response times and ambulance delays.

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Image credit - petekarici

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