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New 999 chief pledges more staff and more ambulances at first public meeting, in Cromer

PUBLISHED: 22:16 14 April 2014 | UPDATED: 23:48 14 April 2014

Denise Burke, who chaired the public meeting on behalf of North Norfolk Labour Party, with Dr Anthony Marsh, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (left), and Matt Broad, the trust's general manager for Norfolk. Picture: DAVE ROBERTS

Denise Burke, who chaired the public meeting on behalf of North Norfolk Labour Party, with Dr Anthony Marsh, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (left), and Matt Broad, the trust's general manager for Norfolk. Picture: DAVE ROBERTS

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New ambulance chief Anthony Marsh chose to make his first public appearance in his trust’s worst-performing area.

Dr Marsh, who became chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) in January, spoke at a meeting in Cromer tonight, and answered questions from concerned members of the public which ranged from poor 999 response times to staffing and funding.

He slated past poor management and pledged to turn round the service in two years.

Dr Marsh said the EEAST was, pro rata, the best-funded and worst-performing of England’s 10 ambulance trusts.

“Our base-line funding is not a problem. It’s what we’ve spent the money on. My assertion is that we were spending on the wrong things,” he said.

Norfolk was the “top risk” county within the six comprising the EEAST, Dr Marsh added.

Highlighting the trust’s six new priorities, he condemned the previous administration’s rota redesign policy as “an utter shambles.”

Dr Marsh said efficiency savings and asking the 19 clinical commissioning groups within the EEAST’s area for up to £20m one-off “transitional funding” would allow the new priorities to be realised.

They included recruiting 400 extra paramedics, “up-skilling” existing staff, and reducing the number of rapid response vehicles and replacing them with more ambulances.

The meeting heard that the first cohort of 100 new paramedics would be ready in June and there would be a focus on recruiting more people in Norfolk in future, to balance staffing across the area.

Dr Marsh also announced that all ambulances which were more than five years old would be replaced by this time next year. And he said an extra 27 ambulances were already operational.

The meeting was hosted by the North Norfolk Labour Party which launched an Act on Ambulances campaign in 2012 following numerous shocking reports of slow response times by ambulances attending emergencies in north Norfolk.

Dr Marsh said he was proud that the average response time to a life-threatening emergency in north Norfolk had now been reduced by nine minutes, to 18 minutes.

But he said it would take two years to achieve his goals, adding: “Let me assure you that if you have an emergency in Norfolk our staff will do the best they can to get to you as quickly as they can and give the best service they can but unfortunately there are not yet enough of them.”

■ What do you think of the ambulance service? Write to the Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE giving your full name, address and contact details.

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