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Chief Hails Ambulance Service Response During Coronavirus Pandemic

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The Chief Executive of East of England Ambulance Service has thanked staff for embracing news ways of working which have helped deliver faster response times during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Latest figures show that, despite the challenges of Covid-19, the Trust is consistently meeting all national standards, thanks in part to more staff to manage calls and more vehicles on the road.

Compared to the same time last year, ambulance response times to reach the most seriously ill (category one) patients have been reduced from nearly 8.5 minutes to under seven.

Response times to category two calls have been halved in the same period, with these patients receiving care on average 17 minutes quicker that in 2019. 

Dorothy Hosein,
Chief Executive, EEAST

In her update to the Trust’s Board, Chief Executive Dorothy Hosein said: “I want to thank each and every member of staff for their dedication to our patients and this service, and their willingness to work differently in very fast-moving and worrying times.’

“Given the scale of our operation covering six counties, our performance over the past months is a major step forward and I am incredibly proud of what’s been achieved.’

“I am confident we can secure and build on these gains now, to support our patients, residents and staff for the long term.”

Changes introduced to manage the expected increases in demand during Coronavirus were wide-ranging and included new structures for decision-making, innovative ways to create more capacity, and better support for crews.

At all times, the safety and experience of patients and staff was at the forefront of the Trust’s approach.

Key activities of this included:

  • Rapidly recruiting approximately 900 temporary staff from the military, firefighters, students and Community First Responder volunteers
  • Fast-tracking recruitment; concentrated training and effective supervision meant hundreds more staff in operation call centres, providing first stage triage on calls, freeing up more experienced staff for more serious calls
  • Fully staffing as a priority the Emergency Clinical Advice and Triage Centre (ECAT) team with experienced paramedics and other professionals to treat non-emergency calls. The ECAT team can treat significant numbers of patient calls at peak times, helping patients get the right care more quickly and keeping ambulances free for sicker patients
  • Deploying Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officers (HALO) at almost every emergency department across the region, reducing handover times for patients
  • Support from volunteers, student paramedics and local charities to maintain patient transport services
  • Huge switch to online meetings to keep staff safe, in-touch and radically reduce travel time for local managers
  • Investment in dedicated 24/7 support crews to clean, stock and keep ambulances road-ready.

Dorothy Hosein added: “As well as our substantive team, I also want to thank those temporary staff who have made such a difference during the past months. I hope, having seen the great work the service does, they will now consider joining us permanently.

“We have seen the difference online recruitment and virtual training can make to getting our stuff numbers up, and we now have the lowest vacancy rate for years. I hope we can use our recent experience to attract even more candidates to join our crews and support staff, especially from younger and more diverse communities.”

Green-Fingered Firefighters Display Appreciation to Ambulance Service Colleagues

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Bedford firefighters who were enlisted to help the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) drive ambulances during the Coronavirus pandemic have designed and built a memorial garden at Luton ambulance station to show appreciation to their new workmates.

The inspiration for the ‘DIY SOS’ makeover came after the firefighters from Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue saw two bouquets in the garden in memory of much-missed ambulance workers who had died of cancer and suicide.

They strongly felt that a much grander tribute was needed which would also serve as a tranquil environment to relax during breaks. 

With no Percy Throwers or Alan Titchmarshs in the group, the firefighters sought the help of Bruce Liddle of Newbury Farm Plant in Silsoe who not only gave advice on the design of the garden but also supplied the plants for free.

Mike King, one of the firefighters working as an ambulance driver at EEAST, said: “The fire team have really enjoyed working alongside such a passionate and dedicated group of people during the pandemic.

“They have made us feel so welcome and we thought the best way to say thank you was to leave a lasting memory by building the memorial garden — something they have been trying to get enough funds together to build for some time.

“We wanted to ensure that it was just right, knowing full well how important it is to them, and I am glad it has been so well received.”

Simon King, head of operations at EEAST for Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton, says the whole of the team have been bowled over by the gesture.

“I would like to thank the firefighters for this phenomenal gift which has been so appreciated by everyone in the team,” he said.

“The way the firefighters have fitted into the teams right across Bedfordshire has been remarkable and both services are looking to build on this collaborative spirit and camaraderie. There are already a number of projects we are working on together to benefit patients.

“The garden itself is magnificent and is a fitting tribute to our much-missed colleagues.”