Eastern Daily Press “they are taking another look at the controversial shake-up of cover and they have already agreed to amend heavily-criticised proposals.”
The “efficiency” proposals announced earlier this year were met with public outcry which gained momentum as MP for North Norfolk Norman Lamb and some notable celebrities added their voices to the cause. Now the decision-makers at East of England Ambulance Service have apparently U-turned after rising demand “triggered a clause in their contract”, leading to an extra £3m in funding which has allowed the provision of 2 (almost) full-time ambulances at Cromer and North Walsham.
Sorry North Norfolk, but it's not nearly enough - at best, you've been given a sugar-coated excrement sandwich. For a start, if it has suddenly come to the attention of the decision-makers that demand was on the increase, how could they justify any kind of withdrawal of cover in the first place without checking the figures first? Why did it take a public outcry for anything more than fuzzy logic and assumption based on old figures to be applied?
What Kind of Ambulance Were You Expecting?
Inexplicable decision-making aside, before we take a look at the initial proposal and the subsequent impact of the “rethink”, we should get some context as there is a lot of reference to some fairly cryptic abbreviations (which will be used as little as possible here).
Emergency ambulance cover nationwide is provided by a number of “resources” and it is of critical importance to understand what kind of service each provides. Not every resource will necessarily mean the arrival of all the services needed at an emergency.
As can be seen from these explanations, although the ambulance staff who arrive at the scene of an emergency will have every intention of providing the care needed, in many cases they are not equipped to do so to the fullest extent. Clearly, in a genuine life-threatening emergency, a Double-Staffed Ambulance is what would be required - even if acute conditions like severe asthma or diabetic coma can be resolved on scene, hospital assessment and treatment may still be required. Anything less is straight from the “it's better than nothing” school of thought.
Emergency Cover in Norfolk
Every run to and from an emergency is an arduous and lengthy slog if you combine these factors with the scant availability of Accident & Emergency departments; the centrally-located Norfolk & Norwich on the western outskirts of the Norwich suburbs, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn in the far north-west corner of the county, and the James Paget Hospital on the southern tip of Great Yarmouth in the south-east. It's little wonder there is concern from the population of the vast areas that are significant distances from all three.
So with these factors in mind, take a look at the proposal table published in the Eastern Daily Press on 18th August 2012.
|Table of Current & Proposed Ambulance Resources in East Anglia (click to enlarge)|
Oddly, going by the figures on this table, despite the Double-Staffed Ambulance hours being reduced by a total 811.5 hours - which equates to 4.8 full-time ambulances – the total DSA vehicles shown is reduced from the current total of 38 to 31 under the proposal, suggesting a reduction of 7 ambulances. I cannot explain this disparity.
The Grim Reality
|Ambulances queues: a common sight outside A&E departments|
|A lone RRV at a 3-vehicle collision|
Given that these kinds of “efficiency measures” (read: cutbacks) are quietly being proposed around the country, the North Norfolk revolt has led the way in terms of expressing public dissatisfaction at these negligent proposals. But anyone who thinks that taking away over 3 ambulances and replacing them with first responders and under-trained staff is a victory, should perhaps consider a “rethink” of their own.
According to the Eastern Daily Press' jubilant article on the provision of these “extra” ambulances, Denise Burke, chairman of North Norfolk Labour Party said “We are pleased that the ambulance trust is listening and that north Norfolk will gain extra health emergency vehicles.” This gives the impression that those "extra" emergency vehicles will be providing cover for Cromer or North Walsham instead of the reality which is that they will be dragged far south in a doomed attempt to make up for the cuts – sorry, efficiency measures – elsewhere.
There is a long way to go before anyone can rest comfortably in the knowledge that there is an ambulance nearby.