Ahead of an undoubtedly busy bank holiday: an update from CEO Robert Morton (28th April)

We’ve now completed the unannounced phase of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection process, which ended on Monday (25th April), with the unannounced inspections in locations as far apart as Peterborough and Southend. On a related note, I wanted to thank everybody for the swift action taken to follow up on the issues raised by the CQC in their preliminary feedback.

It’s been great to see some really positive, proactive events happening over the past week, like the two blood pressure days held in Felixstowe and Hadleigh where teams gave up their own time to take blood pressures for members of the public and give out health advice. We know that health promotion in the community is so valuable, and we’re hoping to do more of that going forward. Last week I met with Peter Aldous MP, who is the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on First Aid. Peter kindly expressed his strong support for EEAST becoming involved in the ‘restart a heart day initiative’ in October.

On a similar theme, i.e. supporting the community to save lives, our Head of EOC Gary Morgan has been exploring how we can build on the implementation of our new CAD to improve mobilisation arrangements for our community first responders (CFRs). Following discussions with CFR leaders, the Trust is looking to widen the expansion of our initial trial to use digital radios, as we are keen to do as much as we can to support existing and new CFR schemes. Sticking with all things CFR, we had a very successful volunteer engagement event in January where we committed to establishing a volunteer support unit (VSU) and a volunteer advisory forum (VAF), once we got beyond the extraordinary workload associated with winter pressures and preparing for the CQC inspection. As we now approach May, we have already begun work on creating the positions necessary to support the VSU. Once it’s in place we will begin the work to establish the VAF, which in turn can begin to drive forward the our strategy around ‘community’, which we expect to launch as part of our five year strategic plan in July.

Messaging about ‘how and when to use us’ is also being shared widely at the moment under the communications team’s ‘It’s Your Call’ campaign, particularly ahead of bank holiday weekend. Thank you to all of you who will be working across the three days, in both emergency and non-emergency care, to keep our service running smoothly for the patients that need us. If the trend we’ve seen so far this year resumes it will undoubtedly be another busy one, and we continue to have discussions with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and MPs about the demand we’re seeing, the pressure we’re under and the investment we need to bridge the existing capacity gap.

I know that it still feels exceptionally busy in every area of the service at the moment, and fully appreciate the effect things like late finishes continue to have on our patient-facing crews. We are fully committed to making positive change and as a Trust, are continuing to engage with UNISON in finding a solution. Over the last number of weeks, there has been a lot of discussion on the Trust’s initial proposal to balance staff wellbeing and patient safety. All of us in the Trust need to be as sure as we can be that any decisions we make, and actions we take, are balanced.  The outcome of discussions to date will now be considered by the relevant senior managers across the Trust, following which, the Trust has committed to provide UNISON with a revised version of the Trust’s proposal which will aim to reflect where discussions have got to so far. The Trust intends to issue this proposal to UNISON by Monday, 9th May, and, in line with the last proposal, the Trust will also share it with all staff. At this stage, I also want to take the opportunity to thank Sandy Brown, Teresa Church, Fraer Stevenson and Darren Jones for their commitment to the discussions to date. We are all under significant pressure because we have so many calls and not enough people, which is why we continue to work with CCGs on the case for further investment into our ambulance service.

On that theme - you will hopefully be aware of the recruitment drive we have underway at the moment. Recruiting patient facing staff, like the 150 intermediate care practitioners, will enable us to respond to more patients in the community, relieve the pressure on existing staff and offer more opportunities for staff to develop their careers within the service. Please support the cause wherever you can – the roles we’re advertising are a perfect route into an ambulance career so if you know someone who fancies a change in direction, or wants to join the team, please let them know. All the available opportunities can be viewed on the NHS Jobs website, and the social media savvy among you can also support by retweeting from our official @EastEnglandAmb and @EEAST_Jobs Twitter accounts. I have been working in the ambulance service for more than 20 years and to this day I still find what we do immensely rewarding – I know many of you feel the same so please help us to recruit more like-minded people into the EEAST family.

In the last week or so I dropped into Brentwood and Southend stations to say hello to colleagues there. Everyone is working very hard to get the new Southend station up and running, it’s looking great and is much more ‘fit-for-purpose’ than the old one - I hope you’re all starting to settle in. And finally, I want to give a mention to the six ambulance care assistants who recently passed their blue light training and are now working on high dependency units from Greenstead ambulance station – well done. We are lucky in this service to have exceptional colleagues working across every area of our service; wishing you all a safe and enjoyable bank holiday.


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