Bosses deny 999 changes will put patients at risk

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AMBULANCE BOSSES have rejected union claims that planned changes to the East of England service will put patients at risk.

Unison says spending cuts of around £50 million are to blame for planned reductions to the numbers of staff and vehicles delivering emergency response services across the region, with Bury St Edmunds set to face a 50 per cent reduction in smaller transportable ambulances.

But the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) says existing frontline staff will be protected and that a safe service will be maintained.

Gary Applin, branch secretary of the East of England Ambulance Service Unison, said: “The proposed scaling down of resources across all areas will put patients at risk.

“The trust’s own figures show that, in many areas, staffing levels will be below what is needed for many hours of the day.

“In rural areas, patients will wait for longer for any member of trust staff to attend in an emergency and, even then, it is likely that will be a solo responder and therefore incapable of transporting them straight to hospital.”

“The public are going to suffer because of these cuts,” he added.

Far from reducing staff numbers, the EEAST says it is launching a drive to recruit more than 110 emergency care assistants by October and investing £400,000 to improve rural services.

It says its vehicle fleet profile is also changing which will mean there will be more rapid response vehicles compared to traditional double-staffed ambulances, reflecting the increasing number of patients who are treated on scene.

It admits there may be fewer vehicles stationed during quiet periods in certain areas, saying they are not needed and that more resources will be available when and where patients need them most.

Hayden Newton, chief executive of the trust, said: “We would like to reassure members of the public that these improvements will see patients benefit while we make more effective use of taxpayers’ money and boost staff numbers. No staff are being made redundant.

“Our strategy addresses three challenges: Dealing with an ever-increasing number of 999 calls, making savings through more efficient working of more than £50 million over five years and improving the quality of services to patients.”