Cambridgeshire paramedic says East of England Ambulance Service on verge of collapse
A whistleblower has sparked fears the region’s ambulance service could be on the verge of collapse.
The unnamed paramedic, who works with the East of England Ambulance Service in Cambridgeshire, made the revelations in an interview with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
She complained about 15 hour shifts without meal breaks and said fatigue is so bad that she once had to punch her colleague to stop them falling asleep at the wheel.
As a result of the fatigue suffered by staff she claims the current service is not sustainable and response times are mostly not being met.
In response to her claims Cllr Richard Howitt, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s adults and health committee, has expressed concern that attempts to transform the service may be moving in the wrong direction.
Also speaking on BBC Cambridgeshire, the Labour councillor, who led scrutiny of the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) on behalf of the county council said: “The local ambulance service has been in ‘special measures’ for some time and the fact that targets for response times for people suffering chest pain and possible stroke are being missed by more than double, is of real public concern.
“The paramedics themselves are part of our community and they should be thanked for what they do and we should do everything possible to support them and the service to be able to improve.
“The recent case of the paramedic from Norfolk which is part of the same ambulance service, who very sadly took his own life because of the pressures he was under, is a tragic reminder of the trauma suffered by staff and patients alike.
“The results of our scrutiny show that expert medical staff have been put into control rooms to help avoid sending an ambulance when emergency treatment is not needed. We have also been assured by our health partners that more money has been put into the ‘111’ service to avoid people calling ‘999’ where they do not need to do so.
“Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the East of England Ambulance Trust has not being prepared to answer questions about the whistleblowing allegations and it does create concern that its efforts towards transformation may be getting worse rather than better.”
Cllr Howitt’s look into the ambulance service, which was put into ‘special measures’ after a Care quality Commission inspection report in 2020, on behalf of the council found the target for an ambulance arriving in ‘C2’ cases (strokes and chest pain) is way over the 18 minutes target, with figures given to Cambridgeshire County Council showing it is more than 48 minutes at present.
A spokesman for EEAST said: “The health and care system is under significant pressure and we are working with partner organisations to reduce delays and the impact they have on patients.
“Part of this work includes developing cohorting areas at acute hospitals, where patients can be assessed before going into the emergency department, so we can get ambulances back on the road more quickly.
“The public can help us to get to the most urgent cases by using NHS 111 service for healthcare advice in non-urgent cases. Please continue to call 999 if it’s a life-threatening emergency.”