On the brink ambulance services are having to double up on journeys to treat critical patients.
East of England Ambulance Trust’s (EEAST) new policy means ambulances can be dispatched when they already have a patient on board.
Their objective, in spite of staff shortages, is to improve response times for patients with life-threatening injuries or illnesses.
EEAST say it will take time to get the right numbers of staff and vehicles in place to make improvements. They say it is a short term plan.
Robert Morton, chief executive at EEAST and Dr Tom Davis, medical director, said: “There are rare situations where a crew who are transporting a clinically stable patient may be passing close by to a life-threatening category one incident.
“In such rare circumstances, it is absolutely right that the crew are contacted to assess if it is clinically safe for the patient on board, if the crew were to stop at the incident and give immediate life-saving care before the arrival of the next closest ambulance or car.”
The trust came bottom of all ambulance trusts in England for category one response times in August.
Mr Morton added: “Clinicians would only ever be expected to divert to a category one incident to give immediate assistance for those few minutes until another ambulance arrives.
Lib Dem Cllr Ron Tindall, of Adeyfield West, said: “This is yet further evidence of crisis, and the desperate need for more staff and funding from the government.”
Hertfordshire MEP Alex Mayer fears the move will force paramedics to make ‘impossible choices.’
She said: “What a mess. The East of England Ambulance service is on the front line, hemmed in by queues at A&E and attending more call- outs because of cuts to social care.
“This is an NHS crisis made in Downing Street that needs a holistic solution.”