A recruitment drive is taking place to boost the number of ambulance crew staff in Northamptonshire.
East Midlands Ambulance NHS Trust wants to add another 40-plus staff to its Northants crews and boost the ranks by 15 per cent.
The move comes as the regional service, which is rated in the ‘requires improvement’ category, is seeking to transform its service.
Deputy director of strategy at EMAS Mark Gregory told members of Northamptonshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee yesterday (Sept 5) that this was the biggest recruitment drive in many years.
He said: “For a number of years we have been in financial turnaround and while in turnaround there was a tendency to become inward facing and make sure we are viable.
“There comes a tipping point and that’s where we are now. We are now entering into a transformative phase. We want to change the way we deliver services and become a key member of the NHS and social care economy in the county.”
Funds for the new staff have come from an additional £9m that has been put into the ambulance trust by the Hardwick clinical commissioning group.
Before the launch of the recruitment drive there were 270 ambulance crew staff in Northamptonshire, made up of paramedics, technicians and emergency care assistants.
There are between 16 and 30 ambulances in action in the county throughout the day and they operate out of eight county bases.
Mr Gregory told the meeting: “Northamptonshire delivers best performance across the region. But again that is still not national standards. Now we have the workforce coming into deliver those standards. We are getting to a much stronger position.”
At the meeting the region’s ambulance service received some criticism from councillors.
Cllr Andre Gonzalez de Savage criticised the current system in which 999 callers in need of an ambulance are not given an estimated time of arrival. Calls from Northamptonshire residents are handled by the regional control centres in Nottingham or Lincoln.
Cllr Gonzalez de Savage said: “I do think it is critical when someone is calling in an emergency that they are given some guarantee of the time. They need some sort of reassurance. We have 22 fire stations in the county and also community first responders. I think you should encourage the relationship with fire to give you some back-up.”
Mr Gregory said it was difficult to know when calls came in, what the situation was in the county for ambulance availability.
Cllr Eileen Hales praised the work of the staff and said that when she had been out with a crew for a day they had not taken a break. Mr Gregory said a policy has now come into place which means each staff member must have a 30-minute lunch break.
He also said the mental health triage car which had been trialled in the county had not worked ‘for various reasons’. He said there had been a significant improvement in handover times at the county’s two hospitals which meant ambulances could be back out to another patient more quickly than before.
Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporter