The East of England has some of the worst ambulance response times in the country, especially in rural areas like large parts of Suffolk Coastal.
I have been leading the campaign to improve response times and get a better deal for patients. After much hard work the service has undergone a lot of positive change over the last few years and long ambulance delays are becoming increasingly rare. I will continue to press the case to make sure the service continues to improve.
An extra 330 staff and 160 ambulances will be sought over the next three years to boost the East of England Ambulance Service, thanks to an increase in funding announced this week. This will see funding rise from the £213.5m spent in 2017/18 to £225m in 2018/19. Subject to activity remaining as predicted, it will then rise again to £240m in 2019/20.
Therese said: "It has taken considerable leadership to increase the funding for the ambulance service and I am pleased to have worked towards this. Well done to the Clinical Commissioning Groups for agreeing to a six-year contract with the ambulance service. I hope it will make a considerable difference, particularly in rural areas, though I'm conscious it can still be challenging recruiting paramedics."
Therese added: "The main problem is still about the length of time ambulances have to wait at several hospitals to transfer patients. I have raised this issue with NHS leadership and the Health Minister. I am pleased that significant progress is being made but we need to keep the pressure on those hospitals."
East of England Ambulance directors were in Parliament today at the request of Therese. The Chair, Chief Executive, and other directors were summoned to give an update to Regional MPs a month earlier than originally planned, following the recent winter period and the alarming reports about response time delays.
Last month, the Health Minister, Steve Barclay ordered a Risk Summit to review the performance of the service – and the Chief Executive Robert Morton set out set out his Action Plan in response to that. This included short-term leases for an additional 24 ambulances to get more vehicles out on the road and plans to recruit even more paramedics. NHS England has also worked with local Clinical Commissioning Groups for more funding to be put into the Ambulance service locally.
Therese said: "We had a good chance to quiz the Directors of the ambulance service on specific issues over the winter performance. There were some particularly concerning incidents over the winter period and as a result, a series of 60-day reviews are underway looking into each individual incident. It is absolutely imperative that those reviews are completed as quickly as possible so we can get answers and learnings from them."
"There are still major issues with hospital handover delays which need to be significantly improved. This is why I specifically invited NHS Improvement to the meeting today so they could hear first-hand the issues that the ambulance service is facing in trying to get crews back out on the road – and it was extremely important to escalate this to that level."
Therese added: "MPs agreed to ask the NHS Director responsible for the East of England, Paul Watson and Health Minister, Steve Barclay to meet us very quickly so we can accelerate solutions to issues that we know have been around for some time. Fundamentally though, despite some improvement being made, we need more improvement more quickly and the very top level of the NHS involved in making that happen."
East of England MPs had the opportunity to discuss ambulance performance today at a meeting organised by Therese. The Chief Executive, Rob Morton, Chairman, Sarah Boulton and Director of Service Delivery, Kevin Brown came to Parliament to update members on the Turnaround Plan to improve ambulance response times.
Dr Coffey said: "This was the first update since the General Election - so it was good to get an insight into the progress made against the turnaround plan. I'm pleased to see the service is continuing to make progress in responding to emergency calls more quickly, with their Red 1 performance up by almost 15% and Red 2 up by 9% from 18 months ago. The service have also implemented a change in their operating model, which will allow for the despatch of the most appropriate resource based on clinical need. There are new performance measures coming into effect today which should benefit patients and also help our ambulance service in being responsive and providing appropriate care."
"The last time the Ambulance Service was inspected by the CQC they 'required improvement'. I was pleased to hear that the Chief Executive is now confident through recent conversations and visits by the regulator that they are now headed for a 'Good' rating."
Therese added: "Handover delays are getting much worse though, which is very disappointing considering I had previously written to offending hospitals and they assured me they were 'looking at ways of urgently improving the situation'. Undoubtedly, there is still a way to go before the full turnaround is achieved but the vital work of our paramedics and our laser-like scrutiny is helping patients."
Therese has today written to the Chief Executive of Suffolk's ambulance service to say she is 'highly concerned'about their plan to press ahead with the remodelling of their estate, which would leave no ambulances stationed in east Suffolk at all.
Under East of England Ambulance Trust proposals to create superhubs at Bury St Edmunds, Colchester and Ipswich - a number of rural ambulance stations would close, causing significant concern that recent improvements to ambulance response times in rural areas would be put at risk.
Therese said: "I'm highly concerned to hear more reports of the superhub proposal going ahead, which would leave no ambulances stationed here in east Suffolk at all. I'm worried that the considerable progress the Ambulance Trust has made in getting people in rural areas the appropriate medical care on time will be put at risk by this proposal. Especially in relation to the Stroke 60 target, where patients suffering a stroke have to get to hospital within 60 minutes to maximise their ability to recover.
Therese added: "I have written to the Chief Executive of the Ambulance Service, Robert Morton outlining my significant concerns and have asked him for a full update. I am also arranging another meeting for ambulance bosses to come to Westminster so we can quiz them on their plans."
Therese has welcomed the CQC inspection report which reinforces the need for improvements in ambulance response times for patients in rural areas after the East of England Ambulance Service was given a 'Requires Improvement' rating by the Care Quality Commission. She intends to organise a meeting with the CQC for Eastern MPs to find out more about the inspection.
This is the first time that the CQC has inspected the Ambulance Service and in the categories of safety, effectiveness, responsiveness and leadership they were given a Requires Improvement rating, with the only exception being care which was rated Outstanding.
Therese said: "While the Ambulance Service were expecting this outcome at this stage of their journey it is still disappointing to see. Progress has been made in turning things around but it is nowhere near quick enough. Patients in rural Suffolk are still not getting the service they need. That said, it is right to recognise that when people who come into contact with the Ambulance Service they would usually agree that the care they receive is outstanding.
"I have a meeting lined up with the Secretary of State for Health when I plan to go into detail about the problems we face in our area. I am also writing to the Chief Executives of those hospitals with the worst handover times which is poor for patient care and reduces the time that ambulances are available to help others who need a 999 response. I am now planning to meet the CQC inspectors so I and other Eastern MPs can be better equipped when scrutinising the service in the future."
Therese organised a meeting in Parliament today for Eastern MPs to hear from the Chief Executive of the East of England Ambulance Service, Rob Morton. He was joined by Chairman, Sarah Boulton and Director of Nursing and Clinical Quality, Sandy Brown. The meeting is the latest in a series of updates on the Turnaround Plan to improve response times and was the third opportunity for MPs to grill the new Chief Executive on progress made.
Therese said, "We heard about a significant increase in demand and we have asked for more data on this. Unfortunately, there are still major problems on handovers at hospitals despite their efforts. I will be writing to the Chief Executives of the worst performing hospitals - Watford, Colchester and the N&N - to challenge them. I will also be contacting the NHS England Chief Executive.
"Problems with response times in rural areas like East Suffolk remain and I am particularly concerned about response times for people suffering strokes. I will keep organising these meetings until the full turnaround plan is implemented to the benefit of patients."
Therese held a meeting in Parliament today for Eastern MPs to hear from the Chief Executive of the East of England ambulance service, Rob Morton. He was joined by Chairman, Sarah Boulton and Director of Nursing and Clinical Quality, Sandy Brown.
The meeting is the latest in a series of updates on the Turnaround Plan to improve response times and was the second opportunity for MPs to grill the Chief Executive on progress made, now he has had time to settle into the role.
Therese said: "The Ambulance Service has gone through significant change over the last two years, recruiting more staff and investing in a new fleet of ambulances. I am satisfied that ongoing issues with handover times at hospitals, including the Norfolk & Norwich, are beginning to be addressed with the Ambulance Service getting tough with those hospitals who are the worst offenders."
"Problems with response times in rural areas like East Suffolk remain and I am determined to keep a laser-like focus on the Service to ensure the full Turnaround Plan is implemented. We must also continue to scrutinise money being put into the service so that it is spent beneficially for patients."
Therese organised a meeting for Eastern MPs to hear from the new Chief Executive of the East of England AmbulanceService, Rob Morton, in Parliament today. He was joined by Chairman, Sarah Boulton and Director of Nursing and Clinical Quality, Sandy Brown.
The meeting is the latest in a series of updates on the Turnaround Plan to improve response times, put in place by Interim Chief Executive Anthony Marsh and the first opportunity for MPs to grill the new Chief Executive on progress made.
Therese said: "I am determined to continue to keep a laser like focus on the Ambulance Service to ensure the full turnaround plan is implemented. The service has gone through significant change in the last 18 months, recruiting more staff and investing in more double staffed ambulances."
Therese added: "There are still some issues with handover times at hospitals, including the Norfolk & Norwich but I am pleased that the new Chief Executive is engaging directly with the Chief Executives of those hospitals to address the issue. There is also a recognition that there is still a lot of work to do to improve staff morale which is being taken seriously."
"One of my main areas of focus is to ensure that patients suffering a stroke get to hospital within 60 minutes to maximise their ability to recover and I pressed the case with the Chief Executive. He has promised to send me more information on how they are performing."
Therese organised the last meeting of this Parliament with the Chief Executive and Chairman of the East of England AmbulanceService, Anthony Marsh and Sarah Boulton, to discuss on progress with the turnaround plan to improve rural response times at a meeting in Parliament last night.
Therese said: "Steady progress continues but I am pushing hard on the local focus, not just the regional statistics. 244 new ambulances have been delivered to replace old ones and by the end of this month there will be no ambulances older than 5 years on the frontline. There are reasons to be cheerful but the board has a clear message that we are impatient for all the changes to be delivered."
Therese added: "Despite a significant recruitment drive of over 400 student paramedics there is still a shortage of paramedics applying from East Suffolk so please consider the student paramedic programme, which could lead to a very fulfilling career."
The Chief Executive and Chairman of the East of England Ambulance Service, Anthony Marsh and Sarah Boulton, briefed East ofEngland MPs on progress of the turnaround plan to improve rural response times and the resilience of the service in Parliament today. The meeting was organised by Therese.
Therese said: "We were last updated in July so it was a good opportunity to scrutinise the progress made since then. When I was first alerted to poor response times in 2011, the Ambulance Service was hitting its regional targets which masked the poor rural response times and dysfunctional service. One of the most important aspects of the turnaround so far is that the long ambulance delays are becoming rarer and rarer."
"Under the strong leadership of Dr Anthony Marsh the service has already recruited over 400 new student paramedics this year rising to over 500 by April 2015. University Campus Suffolk has been accredited to train paramedics and will start its first courses in March 2015. Alongside the extra frontline staff has been the investment in double staffed ambulances. By March there will be no ambulances more than 5 years old, increasing reliability and strengthening capacity."
Therese added: "There are still concerns in relation to handover delays at some hospitals including the Norfolk and Norwich as well as the robustness of triage through the 111– where the ambulance service have offered paramedics to assist. I will be keeping a careful eye on this."
"Dr Marsh has said that the full turnaround of the service is another year away but we can see that real progress is already being made. My colleagues and I will continue to press the case for a better service to ensure East of England patients get the service they deserve."
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