Crossing the one million mark: update from CEO Robert Morton (2nd June)

Robert Morton, CEO

I want to take some time to talk about demand this week, but in some actual detail. We often say ‘demand is increasing’ and that it’s busier than it’s ever been before – but broken down, what does that actually mean?

As a snapshot, last year our three EOCs handled more than one million 999 calls. That’s the highest since EEAST formed in 2006, and the first time ever that we have crossed the one million mark – thank you to everyone who played their part with each and every one. Figures released this week also show that Red calls, to our sickest patients, were 22% higher in April just gone compared to April last year. Every ambulance service is seeing similar pressure, but our utilisation rates continue to be among the highest in the country. You may have noticed that this week, we have signed up to the MIND Pledge. It is when we are all so busy that we really need to take care of our mental health and well as our physical health.

So the sheer scale of growth in demand is masking some of the progress we are actually making. When we look at the last two years, more patients received a response within the target timeframe last year than was the case in the previous year.  I’ve talked many times before about how I would like our targets to move away from being time-focused so they instead look at clinical effectiveness and patient outcomes, but I’m pleased that our response time performance is improving week-on-week. We would like to see further improvements again, and I hope we’ll build on this throughout June.

But demand for ambulance services continues to grow. The 800 student paramedics we’ve recruited are a fantastic addition to the EEAST team, but are part of a long term solution, not a short term fix. Simply put, these new paramedics will not be enough. Right now, we do not have the capacity to deliver the services we are expected to deliver and we cannot continue to rely on short term investment and hiring private ambulance services forever. That is why we are working with our commissioners on a long-term plan for sustainable and ongoing investment into our service, but we need to be realistic about timelines.

The revised operating model we're discussing reflects the Urgent and Emergency Care Review outcomes to ensure patient needs are met with the most appropriate clinical service, that performance improves, A&E demand is reduced, and our service has a clear career path for staff. Approximately 40% of our patients are not taken to hospital, which indicates that there is still a significant number of 999 calls being made where an emergency ambulance is not the appropriate response. A new way of responding to our communities can deliver results for the whole health system, not just the ambulance service. In turn, that new model will support measures we want to implement to improve working conditions for you, including better meal breaks and finishing on time more often.

We’ve been proactive about sharing our ‘story’ and these messages with the public via the media and online, and with our stakeholders. We work in a fantastic organisation and it’s important that we continue to highlight the good work we do, not just respond to negative coverage. I continue to meet with our regional MPs on a regular basis to ensure they are aware of the progress we are making, the challenges we face and the support we need to continue to provide services to our patients and support for you.

Our strategic direction is very much about us becoming a more clinically-focused organisation, that's patient driven and responsive.  However, in relation to the here and now, our commissioners, regulators, the media, the public and MPs are demanding that we improve operational performance as a priority. The reality for us as an organisation is that we must deal with today as part of getting to our tomorrow.

I want to take this moment to thank all of you for your hard work and commitment as, despite the level of responses we need to make, you continue to provide very high levels of care and excellent patient experience. No easy task, but one you have risen, and continue to rise to.

Have a good week


Published 2nd June

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