'Shining a light on PTS and beyond': an update from CEO Robert Morton

Robert Morton ambulance OPT

I want to start this week by paying my respects to our much revered colleague Gary Smithen, who sadly passed away at the weekend; I know you’ll join me in passing our condolences to his friends, colleagues and family. I had the pleasure of meeting Gary just before Christmas, and what shone through was his commitment to, and passion for, EEAST despite the personal challenges of his own that he was facing. I know how much this will impact on the local team; if you’ve understandably been affected by Gary’s death and need support, please remember that the Trust’s employee assistance programme is available at any time. We’ll make sure to share Gary’s funeral arrangements with you as soon as we can.

When we look at the challenges facing us, especially the increasing demand, 111 referrals and hospital handover delays, it is clear that central to improving our situation for staff and our services for patients is being able to better manage demand. Nowhere was this highlighted more than the Dispatches programme on Monday which laid bare the pressures on the ambulance service and all of us. And this is reflected with the staff and stakeholders I met over the last week in Dunstable, Huntingdon, Potter Heigham, the James Paget Hospital and in the interviews I did with BBC Norfolk and the East Anglian Daily Times.

Better managing demand will be aided as we develop and implement a new operating model, which has an emphasis on delivering more clinical care closer to home, and being able to direct patients to the right healthcare service first time - instead of defaulting automatically to an ambulance response.

I discussed these thoughts with our commissioners recently and they were very receptive to the ideas, although there needs to be further discussion as we refine the model and develop our case for investment in the ambulance service.

We also need to work closer with our blue light colleagues to help manage our demand and extend our reach into communities.  Last week I met with Cambridgeshire Police and the Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service as part of wider discussions we are having around how we can help each other provide a better service to the public.

However, the second element which will help us better manage demand and provide a more integrated urgent and emergency care service is by delivering more primary care, 111, out-of-hours and patient transport services (PTS). If we actually own and deliver these services, as we do with PTS in Essex and Cambridgeshire and used to do with 111 and out-of-hours in Norfolk, we can direct 999 patients who don’t need an emergency response to the right care, like an out-of-hours GP appointment. Our PTS colleagues can also play a crucial role in helping us manage some of our urgent demand and getting patients to the right care service for them.

We know in areas where we deliver PTS that it is well respected and our patients truly value our staff and the job they do. We also know that we deliver a quality service, run by highly motivated and committed staff, and as such, the Board is completely committed to expanding the services we provide in the community. This will include bidding for more PTS, 111 and out-of-hours contracts – we know we can deliver these successfully, as we have proved in the past.

To that end, I want to thank all the team who have worked on getting our bid for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough non-emergency PTS tender. I know how much work went into preparing the bid and I hope it is the start of EEAST being seen as the provider of choice across the region for a range of services.

In all of this, our number one commitment and responsibility to our patients and staff is to ensure their safety at all times whilst in our care and to protect them from harm.  I am really proud that our duty goes well beyond this statement, as illustrated in the recent safeguarding referrals that you have made in January, that surpassed a new milestone for us of more than 2,000 (2,203 to be precise).  This is testament to you all for taking your safeguarding responsibilities seriously, thank you for your dedication to patient care; and thanks to the safeguarding team who have worked tirelessly to move this area forwards; another sign of what we can achieve when we all work together. You can read more about safeguarding here.

I visited Thetford and Attleborough over the last week, and had a really good meeting with some of our supplies team in Dunstable to look at how our supplies function works – without departments like these we couldn’t function. I was also delighted to see that an article on our GP triage line, co-written by Dr Helen Alefounder, was published in the European Journal of Emergency Medicine this week. This is a prestigious publication and I’m very proud to see our service represented in it for such an innovative, forward-thinking project.

And finally, I was delighted that the new Cleric CAD was successfully implemented in Norwich EOC this week. This is yet another step forward and shows the progress we are making. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.

Have a good week.


Published 18th February, 2016


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