A paramedic has spoken about the ongoing battle to maintain adequate ambulance cover for our area.
Simon Morley, based at Diss ambulance station, said that a move by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) to cut the number of double-staffed ambulances (DSAs) stationed 24/7 in Diss is currently on hold due to a dispute with frontline staff.
Mr Morley told the Diss Express there is hope that the station, off Vinces Road, will retain its two 24-hour DSAs to help assist those in need locally, but said: “There is no doubt that we are still in a great deal of trouble.”
He added that if the dispute was not ongoing, Diss ambulance station would have been reduced to one 24-hour DSA and one DSA that covered “peak points” - a concept Mr Morley claims is impossible to quantify - back in April.
However, a recent EEAST trial of new deployment plans to increase rural cover has meant that south Norfolk and north Suffolk may have been better served in recent months than this time last year, when there were fears that people would die due to ambulance cutbacks.
The effectiveness of the plans will be assessed by the trust in the next few weeks.
Mr Morley said that EEAST will have a tough task achieving high-levels of rural coverage on a permanent basis, as the six counties it covers, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk, all have different needs, and that it can be “difficult to get to grips” with the demands of running a rural service alongside an urban one in such a geographically-wide area.
He added: “Those who pay for the ambulance service, the Clinical Commissioning Groups, are looking to cut expenditure rather than expand it, and if we do improve rural deployment, it can only be at the expense of hitting Government targets.”
In February, EEAST announced that it was to provide 15 extra ambulances across the region, including one in Diss. However, the trust soon discovered that it did not have enough paramedics on its payroll to man the new vehicle. Thus, although Diss physically has three ambulances based at its station, the third vehicle can only be manned using overtime hours.
Mr Morley added that the introduction of new vehicles was also a means of tackling the fact “the ambulance fleet is disintegrating”, with some having clocked up more than half a million miles.
The paramedic of nearly 30 years approached the Diss Express last year because he feared “people would die” if the ambulance cutbacks being proposed at the time were rubber-stamped.
Since then, Andrew Morgan, has taken control of EEAST, and Mr Morley praised the interim chief executive as someone who is able to “understand what those on the ground are saying.”
The Diss Express put a question to EEAST about coverage in the Diss area, but did not receive a response.
A spokesperson confirmed that Diss currently has two 24-hour DSAs currently operating from its station.
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