The region’s ambulance service has turned itself around from being among the worst-performing in the country to within the top five.
The East of England Ambulance Service Trust says it has made ‘significant’ improvements in performance over the last year – despite an increase in demand of more than 7% – and is now ranked in the top five in the country for its response to the most critically ill patients.
Ways in which the Trust has upped its game have included getting ambulances back on the road faster after handing over patients at hospital, employing hundreds of new frontline staff and upgrading and increasing ambulances and equipment.
The Trust has also recouped £14million in back office savings and reinvested it in frontline services, and recent patient satisfaction surveys now regularly hit 98% from responders.
Chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh believes the tide is turning for a Trust considered one of the country’s worst performing ambulance services less than 12 months ago.
He said: “Demand is up almost 7% on last year and it has been well publicised that it reached unprecedented levels during the winter.
“Despite this, our staff are working extremely hard and are reaching the most critically patients faster as well as getting back on the road more quickly after handing over patients at hospital.
“It is thanks to them, and the actions we put in place, that we have gone from being one of the worst performing ambulance services to regularly being one of the best.”
Until July 2014, the Trust was the worst performing of 11 ambulance services for responses to the most life-threatening ‘Red 1’ emergencies – such as unconscious patients or those with traumatic injuries – which should be reached within eight minutes.
But since October, crews are reaching these patients faster than the majority of other ambulance services, consistently being ranked in the top five in the country. Demand for Red 1 calls has increased disproportionately and is currently up around 20% on last year.
In February, the Trust exceeded the national target by almost 3%, with nearly 78% of Red 1 emergencies reached on time.
The number of hours lost each month after a patient is handed into the care of hospital staff fell from 2,792 last April to 2,073 this January and 1,863 in February
Between May and September 2014. The figure for calls picked up within five seconds fell short of the 95% target, but this has now been achieved consistently since October.
In addition, there are improvements in the Trust’s response for Red 2 calls, the second most serious type of emergencies, which were reached within eight minutes 61% of the time last April, but have jumped to 65% of the time in January and 66% last month.
We will not rest on our laurels, and we will continue striving to deliver a service that works for both our patients and our staff.EEAST chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh
Dr Marsh, who joined the service in January last year, said that while results show the Trust is moving in the right direction, there is no room for complacency. He added: “When I joined the Trust I set a number of ambitious targets to significantly improve the service.
“Over the last year we have upgraded our fleet, invested in new equipment, rolled out programmes to upskill existing staff, and recruited more than 400 frontline staff – with the same number set to join us over the coming year.
“In addition, we have reinvested around £14 million of back office or corporate savings into frontline activity. We know we are not there yet but all of these measures have helped and will continue to help us improve our service.
“Our performance must continue to improve and we know we can expect to come under scrutiny, and rightly so, when we fall below expected standards.
“We are however consistently achieving patient satisfaction scores of 98% and the recent NHS staff survey showed that more and more of our staff now believe in what we are trying to achieve.
“We will not rest on our laurels though, and as a values-driven organisation we will continue striving to deliver a service that works for both our patients and our staff.”
For more about the Trust, visit www.eastamb.nhs.uk or follow @EastEnglandAmb on Twitter.