Region’s ambulance numbers to be halved

THE fleet of traditional ambulances serving the region is set to be HALVED, as health bosses look to overhaul the way the service operates.

However, they have assured there are “absolutely no plans” for the number of paramedics and front-line workers to be cut.

The decisions were made by the East of England Ambulance Service’s board at a meeting last Wednesday.

In a shift in the way 999 calls from the public are dealt with, many traditional ambulances are set to be decommissioned and the number of fast response cars increased.

The intensive care ambulance fleet size will be reduced from 276 to 138 vehicles, and the response car fleet will be increased from 145 to 232 vehicles.

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More triage – whereby emergency patients are sorted into categories of priority for treatment – will be used when 999 calls are taken.

The ambulance service has predicted this will lead to fewer patients being transported in ambulances and more response cars being sent out, or patients being signposted to other services and care.

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Medical director Dr Pamela Chrispin said: “Last year [April 2010 to March 2011] only 70 per cent of the calls we responded to required a double-staffed ambulance to transport patients to hospital, yet we automatically sent one to the vast majority of incidents.

“More in-depth triage will be carried out to determine the best response, which may mean a fully-equipped rapid response vehicle (RRV) staffed by a highly trained clinician, or an RRV automatically backed up with further resources such as a double-staffed ambulance where there is need.”

She said patients who do not need taking to hospital will be treated on the scene or referred to an out-of-hours doctor, walk-in centre, GP or pharmacist.

Dr Chrispin added: “There are absolutely no plans to reduce staff numbers as part of this process.

“Our staff are our greatest asset, so we would do nothing that would put added pressure on them.

“The fleet strategy approved at the board meeting is designed to fall into place as it follows these service improvements.”

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