Improved response from ambulance chiefs
Tuesday, 2nd March 2010.
Ambulance chiefs have pledged to provide rapid response cover at Haverhill 24/7, rather than the current 80 hours a week, from mid-April.
Currently the rapid response vehicle based at Haverhill is not staffed at night or over the weekends.
This was one of the concerns raised by town councillor Margaret Marks recently when she spoke with ambulance chiefs in Haverhill at a meeting which included MP Richard Spring and his prospective successor Matthew Hancock.
Cllr Marks raised several other areas of concern which she had been complaining to the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EASTT) which runs the Haverhill operations from its Cambridge base.
She claimed both Haverhill and Cambridge were under-staffed and morale in the service was low, and also there were delays in ambulance turnarounds at hospitals.
The trust's associate director of emergency operations Neil Storey and its Cambridgeshire interim general manager Karl Edwards sought to allay local fears.
Mr Edwards, who recently came in post, said much of the concerns had been caused by poor communication between the trust and worried local people, and he was now making himself available at any time to answer concerns and would be meeting Cllr Marks at least every month to make sure all was well.
"We currently have a full complement of staff at Haverhill ambulance station," he said, "which now includes a rapid response vehicle which will increase its operation from 80 hours a week with no overnight cover to 168 hours per week providing 24/7 cover. EEAST is looking to have this in place by mid-April.
"In addition, staff vacancies in Cambridgeshire overall have been reduced by 50 per cent and the Trust is taking active steps to recruit new staff in the local area, by means of a local career stand in Cambridge city centre."
The bad weather, which led to an increase in trips and falls, had contributed to the turnaround problem at hospitals, he said.
"Concerns about delays in patient admission at A&E departments, and delay in vehicles being released to respond to further 999 calls, were addressed and, while this assumption is technically correct, we continue to work in close partnership both with our local primary care trusts and the acute hospitals to improve vehicle turnaround times.
"These are routinely monitored and acted upon in the event of any difficulties.
"The slips, strips, falls and road accidents caused by the adverse weather this winter provided us with additional challenges and led to increased demand for our services.
"This issue has affected all acute hospitals across the region, but again our close working partnerships have allowed us to minimise the impact."
Cllr Marks told a recent meeting of Haverhill Town Council the result of the meeting would mean a significant imp[rovement in cover for the town.
Mr Spring said afterwards: “I greatly welcome the forthcoming extension of rapid response vehicle coverage to 24 hours a day as well as the ‘tethering’ of ambulances to Haverhill.
"The Ambulance service does a great job in difficult conditions, and should be applauded for it. I salute the efforts of councillor Margaret Marks to help to bring this improvement about.”
* Our picture shows Richard Spring (left), Matthew Hancock (right), Margaret Marks and ambulance chiefs at their recent meeting in Haverhill.
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