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East of England Ambulance Service prepares to call for military assistance this winter

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Norfolk’s ambulance trust is preparing to call in the military for support when winter pressure bites.

In a report to Norfolk county councillors, the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) has outlined plans for when demanded increases over the winter months.

They said: “EEAST, along with the rest of the NHS, are anticipating further activity this winter.

Ambulances outside the QEH at Kings Lynn. (50874391)
Ambulances outside the QEH at Kings Lynn. (50874391)

“As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, we work with regional colleagues to prepare for the increase in patients.”

The plans include:

Putting in place contingency plans to call in military and fire service support with emergency and non-emergency services if required

Not sending ambulances to non-urgent patients and directing them to more appropriate services

Increasing overtime levels for existing staff

Recruiting extra staff to take 999 calls

Increasing use of private ambulances

The trust has already had to draw on army support last month, calling a small number of military drivers for our non-urgent patient transport services.

On Thursday, Marcus Bailey, chief operating officer at EEAST, told councillors on the Norfolk health overview and scrutiny committee that this was the most sustained pressurised period he had experienced in his 23 years with the trust.

Mr Bailey said: “The pressure on urgent and emergency care is still sustained and already we are enacting some of our winter plans approach in order to get that sustainability from summer into winter as well.”

Mr Bailey stressed to the committee that Covid was not over and they needed to be clear about the impact on staff and patients, but also the indirect impact on staff’s health and wellbeing.

The trust is one of eight trusts in the country still at its highest escalation levels, based on 999 calls and activity.

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