Ambulance chief says service will recruit 60 advanced paramedics in bid to cut shocking waiting times
By Piers Meyler - Local Democracy Reporter
21st Sep 2022 | Local News
SIXTY advanced paramedics are being recruited into the East of England Ambulance Service to help bring down the number of people needing to be taken to hospital for treatment.
The new paramedics will be able to better diagnose and treat people "on the road", avoiding conveyance to hospital and thereby avoiding handover delays to emergency departments, head of the East of England Ambulance Service Tom Abell told the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board today (Wednesday, 21 September).
His announcement comes amid recent figures showing the East of England Ambulance Service waiting times are still short of NHS targets, despite having fallen between July and August.
Ambulances took an average of 10 minutes and 17 seconds to respond to category one calls – those for life threatening injuries – in August in the East of England.
That's down from 11 minutes and six seconds in July. However, it's longer than the seven minute target set by the NHS.
Category two calls, which cover things like strokes, were responded to in an average of one hour and one minutes, well short of the 18 minute target, and the longest wait of any ambulance service in England for this category of call. It is, however, an improvement on July's response time of an hour and 18 minutes.
Category three calls, meanwhile, were dealt with in an average of two hours 49 minutes, compared to a target of two hours, and category four calls were responded to within an average of two hours and 26 minutes, compared to a target of three hours.
Mr Abell said: "We are in process of recruiting 60 advanced paramedics who have a much broader skill range. They will work in the control and on the road to be able to diagnose and treat and prevent conveyance to hospital as we move forwards."
The service is also gearing up to devolving the service to a local level by working with the integrated care board (ICB) and from November access to STACKS – the way the system prioritises patients – will be available to allow community services or other services to directly access and respond to patients in the local community negating the need for an ambulance response.
Mr Abell said: "That is the only way we are going to be able to sustainably meet the demands on the service by managing that demand differently.
"And so by changing the skills mix of the service, by making sure we are much more integrated with local services and local communities and also making sure we continue to invest to make sure we have enough core resource on the road and in control is the way we move forward.
"I am very keen we do that at a local ICB level because what will work in Essex will be different to what will work in Luton or Hertfordshire or Norfolk.
"So that local joint leadership of the service is going to be an essential part of that as we move forward."
He added the service is also preparing for a refiguring of how patients are priortised within the C2 category into sub categories of C2A, C2B and possibly C2C.
He said: "The C2 category call is a very broad category of clinical need. It ranges from very serious conditions, such as strokes, through to much less serious conditions.
"And so proposals have been put forward by all the ambulance services to NHS to effectively separate the C2 category, with C2A being the most serious call.
"But it also allows us to clinically triage the C2B and C2C calls which might be more suitable for a community response or an alternative service. That will be a bit of a game changer for us because about 60 percent of patient demand gets categorised as a C2.
"That is partly why we are making investment in advanced paramedics because they will be able to do more of the clinical triage of that C2 load."