Ambulance cover fears for north Norfolk

Cromer ambulance station staff who made a stand against proposed cuts to the ambulance service last

Cromer ambulance station staff who made a stand against proposed cuts to the ambulance service last week. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Extra ambulance cover for north Norfolk has been given a guarded welcome by campaigners who say more still needs to be done to boost response times to help local patients.

Today North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb will be meeting the ambulance bosses to raise concerns, which come in a week when a planned new full-time vehicle for Cromer was unable to get into gear on Monday because of the lack of a crew to man it.

The cover boost was part of 15 new full-time ambulances, staffed by two people, due on the region's roads from Monday – including another at Potter Heigham.

But current staff were reluctant to work extra overtime to man them ahead of the arrival of 114 emergency care assistants and 25 paramedics from the end of March.

One north Norfolk paramedic, who wished to remain anonymous, said staff morale was low and they worked 14-hour shifts on average.

Mr Lamb claimed response times of ambulances in north Norfolk had 'deteriorated' and said: 'We need to get the system working more efficiently.'

He said: 'I remain extremely concerned about the performance, particularly in relation to response times. The announcement last week is a step in the right direction and I welcome it – but a lot more needs to happen to reassure me and my constituents.'

Most Read

Mr Lamb will today raise concerns with the East of England Ambulance Service Trust's interim chief executive Andrew Morgan and chairman Maria Ball and will take north Norfolk paramedics to meet MPs at Westminster on March 6.

Mr Morgan said yesterday they knew it might be difficult to crew the new ambulances before the recruits came on board but 'rather than wait we wanted to get the vehicles onto their stations ready for operation so we can get them staffed as fully and quickly as possible.'

At Cromer the two 24/7 ambulances and one part-time rapid response vehicle, which operates 17 hours a day over seven days, have been boosted by an extra ambulance under the latest moves.

If the previously proposed changes go ahead in March one of the ambulances would cover 20 hours a day, and another would work Friday and Saturdays for eight and 20 hours respectively, with the response vehicle going full time.

At North Walsham the full-time ambulance would be cut to 16 hours a day seven days week during peak times, but a new full-time rapid response vehicle would be added.

Denise Burke, chairman of the North Norfolk Labour Party and the Act on Ambulances campaign, said: 'There is a long way to go before we can be satisfied that both government and the ambulance trust have done all they can to improve response times in north Norfolk.'

North Walsham county councillor Paul Morse, said the area would benefit from Cromer and Potter Heigham's extra ambulances but was 'worried' about the lack of current frontline staff to man the vehicles.