Staff thanked in face of increasing demand on service

Date: 01 June 2016

Paramedic  kneeling before female patient to assess

Our Chief Executive Robert Morton has praised staff for their hard work in dealing with what he describes as a “significant year-on-year rise in demand”.

Latest figures show that 999 calls for our sickest patients – known as Red calls - was 22% higher in April compared to April 2015.

These patients – which include those in cardiac arrest, suffering serious breathing problems, or life-threatening traumatic injuries - are the most challenging to respond to as the Government-set target time is to help at least 75% of those patients within eight minutes.

Other significant figures include: 

  • April activity 10% higher than March, and responding to more life-threatened patients than last year 
  • more than one million 999 calls handled by EEAST’s three control rooms last year, the highest since its establishment in 2006 - and the first time we have crossed the one million marker
  • approximately 40% of patients not taken to hospital, indicating a significant number of 999 calls being made where an emergency ambulance is not the appropriate response.

At the moment, we are continuing negotiations with commissioning groups to secure funding for a new operating model to enable the service to deliver services in a more sustainable way.

Robert Morton CEO said: "The sheer scale of growth in demand is masking some of the progress we are actually making. When we look at progress over the last two years, more people are receiving a response within the target timeframe last year than was the case in the previous year. While response times performance is improving week-on-week, we would like to see further improvements and expect to see this happen in June.

“Everyone in EEAST is working extremely hard to deliver improved services to patients – we thank the hundreds of potential patients who do recognise the pressure we’re under and use alternative NHS services, but this is not enough and we are aware that our utilisation rates continue to be among the highest in the country. This has to change if we want the service to become an employer of choice and one where our staff want to stay.”

We are working to implement measures to improve working conditions for staff, including better meal breaks and finishing on time more often, but Robert said the increasing activity, demand for performance improvement, and lack of capacity makes this a very difficult balance to achieve.

In 2014/2015, the service began recruiting up to 800 new student paramedics. Whilst these staff were able to gain some practice out on the road in 2015, this year, most of students must return to university and will not begin to qualify and be eligible to be fully registered until next March, with regular cohorts qualifying and registering up to the middle of 2018. "These 800 students are part of a long term solution, not a short term fix," said Robert.

“Right now, we do not have the capacity to deliver the services we are expected to deliver and we cannot continue to rely on short-term investment and hiring private ambulance services forever. That is why we are working with our commissioners on a long-term plan for sustainable and ongoing investment to service the ongoing increases in demand but we need to be realistic about timelines, as paramedics are not trained in weeks or months.

“The revised operating model we're discussing reflects the Urgent and Emergency Care Review outcomes to ensure patient needs are met with the most appropriate clinical service, that performance improves, A&E demand is reduced, and our service has a clear career path for staff. A new way of responding to our communities can therefore clearly deliver results for the whole health system, not just the ambulance service.”

We have begun an ambitious recruitment and career work for patient-facing roles, extending the student paramedic programme to allow for 200 more people to commence the two-and-a-half year training programme, as well as introducing new roles, You can read more about those on our working for us page.

Another measure to help the most seriously life-threatened patients has been recently introducing co-response schemes with fire services in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex. So far, two patients have been successfully resuscitated at the scene by fire crews, and other counties are due to come on board this summer. This builds on the support we have from our existing volunteer first responder schemes in the community.

“All of the work we are focused on is about us becoming a more clinically-focused organisation, that's patient drive and responsive, and I want to thank the public and our supporters for recognising our drive towards this and thank my colleagues for their hard work and commitment as, despite the level of responses we need to make, they are providing very high levels of care and excellent patient experience," added Robert.

“We continue to meet with our regional MPs on a regular basis to ensure they are aware of the progress we are making, the challenges we face and the support we need to continue to provide services to our patients and support our staff."

For more information on Government-set targets, and using NHS services other than 999, visit our It's your call page.

  • Summary:

    Our Chief Executive Robert Morton has praised staff for their hard work in dealing with what he describes as a “significant year-on-year rise in demand”.