The boss of West Norfolk’s ambulance service has insisted he understands the borough’s problems with the service but admitted it will take time to resolve them.
Dr Anthony Marsh, the chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service, made the comments yesterday ahead of a meeting with staff at Lynn’s ambulance station on Monday evening, after the Lynn News went to press.
The service has come under repeated fire in recent times for failing to meet national response time targets, with West Norfolk being highlighted as having some of the worst figures in the whole region.
And, earlier this month, Dr Marsh apologised to the family of Dersingham teenager Stephanie Sanpher, who died from meningitis after being left to wait for an ambulance for almost 90 minutes, for the delay in the response.
But he maintains that the trust’s plans to recruit hundreds of new paramedics over the next 14 months will help to address the problems the service currently faces.
He said: “I understand the rural nature of King’s Lynn and the area immediately around it.
“I understand there aren’t sufficient paramedics. That’s why we’re recruiting 400 student paramedics.
“We will do everything we can to provide the best service we can as quickly as we can, recognising in the short term there are not enough paramedics, but that our staff are working as hard as they can.”
Last month, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported that the trust was still failing to meet national targets which say an ambulance should respond to 75 per cent of life-threatening emergency calls within eight minutes and 95 of cases when a solo responder is first on the scene within 19 minutes.
That followed figures released last summer, which suggested that just 58 per cent of life-threatening emergency patients in West Norfolk were being reached within the eight-minute time frame.
At the time, the figure was the fourth worst in the East of England.
He admitted that the response targets would not be reached quickly, but said the trust would have started to turn things around when cases of particularly long delays are reduced.
The trust is currently drawing up an action plan in response to the CQC’s findings, as well as working out where to deploy newly recruited paramedics across the area once they have completed their training.
Dr Marsh said that both documents will be completed by the end of next month.
Lynn’s station was the third site Dr Marsh visited on Monday, having earlier met staff at Cromer and Cambourne, South Cambridgeshire.
He admitted rank and file paramedics and technicians often felt their concerns had not been listened to in the past and said he hoped the meeting would help them to see his vision for the organisation and assure them of his commitment to working with them to turn things around.
He added: “Our staff do a great job, often working in very difficult circumstances. They need to know their chief officer is supporting them.”