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Issue:- Saturday, 15 August 2015

Ambulance Boost for North West Region

COMMUNITIES in the North West will see a substantial increase in the numbers of Ambulances and frontline Ambulance staff, the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) announced that following significant work between CCG Ambulance Commissioners and the Trust. The announcement comes following the most challenging year in the Trust's history when last year, 2014 to 2015, NWAS saw an unprecedented increase of 8.1% in '999' calls and 11% for the most serious and life threatening 'Red' calls. While the Trust predicts growth in activity and plans ahead for the required resources, the rise, which was seen nationally as well as in the North West, was substantially above what was expected and unfortunately, did leave some patients waiting longer than they should have done for an Ambulance. Director of Operations, Derek Cartwright comments:- "Based on these figures and planned trajectories for the coming months, very open and constructive talks were held with Commissioners who fully understood the challenge we faced. Since our establishment as a Trust in 2006, we have seen a growth of circa 2% per annum and there is no reason to believe that will change."

Commissioners have approved the provision of funds to enable NWAS to purchase more than 60 new Ambulances, rapid response vehicles and emergency vehicles for community based paramedics, extend the operating hours of some of our existing vehicles and to recruit more than 400 additional frontline staff, including more than 40 in the Trust's Call Centres. All these will be deployed throughout the region and have been located in areas where demand requires the additional resource. Derek adds;- "This is a fantastic boost for the Trust and I'm sure for the staff who have been working extremely hard to cope with the additional demand. Most of all, it is extremely good news for the people of the North West. It is hugely important for us to plan ahead and ensure we have the appropriate number ready for when we need them as new Ambulances and staff can't just appear overnight. We have started the process for phasing these resources in over the coming months and hope to have the full complement of new vehicles and staff in operation by the end of the year We know that sending an Ambulance to all patients is not the most appropriate course of action, and our commitment to providing alternative pathways of care, we believe, is still the way forward, however, the statistics have shown that the numbers of patients with life threatening conditions is rising and these are people who definitely do need an Ambulance response. These additional vehicles will be of tremendous benefit to them and the Trust and I look forward to welcoming on board the new staff who will work on them."

Recruitment of staff has been an important objective of the Trust for some time and last year saw the Trust employ an additional 156 urgent care and emergency medical technicians, 146 paramedics and 114 control centre staff. However, with vacancies still needed to be filled, the Commissioners' funding will enable to the Trust to further increase its frontline staffing.  Derek concludes:- "It's all well and good purchasing additional Ambulances but people need to operate them, people are needed to answer the 999 calls and staff are required to then dispatch the vehicles. We're absolutely delighted to be able to say that, despite the financial challenges faced by NHS trusts today, we are swelling our ranks rather than reducing them."

Allan Jude, Director of Ambulance Commissioning at Blackpool CCG and Lead Ambulance Commissioner for the North West said:- "The Ambulance service is an integral and key player in the urgent and emergency health system. While last year they responded to unprecedented levels of demand, they also managed to significantly increase the number of patients who were successfully treated at home or within the community. By not transporting such patients to hospitals they have relieved some of the significant pressures faced by emergency hospital department."

With the levelling of activity, the Trust is currently achieving all national targets, reporting a year to date performance, as at 9 August 2015, of 77.5%for Red 1 and 76.2%, the national target for these is set at 75%. The Trust is also achieving the national 95% target for Category A calls.

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