Paramedic recruitment drive stepped up by under-fire ambulance service

Ambulance service

Ambulance service - Credit: Archant

PATIENTS are set to benefit from the recruitment of scores more frontline ambulance staff after the region’s under-fire ambulance service announced it had stepped up its campaign for extra paramedics.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) is in the process of recruiting 199 new paramedics and emergency care assistants (ECAs) in an effort to boost the region’s service.

So far this year the Trust has recruited 115 ECAs but, out of the 75 new paramedic roles, 24 have been offered positions. It means another 51 need to be taken on. The numbers are in addition to the 139 ECAS recruited last year.

Adverts will be going into national paramedic journals from today (Friday) and a graduate recruitment open day is planned for February 11 at Melbourn ambulance station in Cambridgeshire, with more than 30 potential new staff confirming attendance.

In addition a number of qualified paramedics have been invited to interviews over two days for direct entry to the Trust.

Andrew Morgan, EEAST interim chief executive, said: “Having more than 200 new frontline staff on board is a big boost for the ambulance service and the communities it serves.

“These extra crew members will, in conjunction with the raft of measures we have planned, mean we can really start to improve the service and care we give to patients.”

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He added that life-threatening emergencies make up only a fifth of 999 ambulance calls, meaning that ECAs attending lower priority incidents will allow more paramedics for the patients who really need them.

The Trust said it had more staff than ever before and nearly double the number compared to when it was formed, from 948 paramedics in 2007 to 1,492 last year, and 16 ECAs in 2007 to 333 last December.

It follows recent criticism about ambulance response times from both the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Essex Police Federation.

Keith Handscomb, regional representative for the FBU, said: “Something needs to be done but looking for a plaster to treat a gaping wound is not the answer.

“For those who find themselves in medical emergencies, this is a matter of life or death.

“We applaud the skills and commitment of the professional paramedics and ambulance crews we work alongside but there is something seriously wrong with the 999 response of EEAST.

“Casualties are waiting longer for the arrival of paramedics and ambulances and when they do they are often on their own and unable to take casualties to hospital.”

The Essex Police Federation previously revealed last week that police officers were taking patients to hospital on a daily basis.

But the EEAST defended its performance. A spokesman said: “Often it is not the case that ambulances are unavailable, simply the information given from the scene indicates a non-emergency, so the patient is given a longer waiting under the national prioritisation system.”