Here's to the future: an update from CEO Robert Morton

Robert Morton, CEO

So, our inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is now well underway, with inspectors visiting stations, offices and EOCs across the patch over the last few days.

I hope some of you have had the opportunity to talk to them in person to help them understand ‘EEAST’, how we work and what we do; I was interviewed by the team on Tuesday (5th April) and had a really productive, thoughtful and honest discussion about the challenges we face, but importantly the massive inroads and achievements we’ve made as well. 

What has come across very clearly is the tremendous effort made by all colleagues, the pride you show in your work, and the care you give to patients and each other. This resonates with the improved results we saw in the NHS staff survey – we are starting to make a culture change and rebuild morale. We are also seeing a positive trend with staff retention and attrition; the latest data showed that we have significantly improved our staff turnover rate, moving us ahead of several other ambulance services.

Now to a matter that I appreciate I have already talked about at great length – demand. When I joined seven months ago, it was clear to me that we simply don’t have enough capacity, particularly enough patient facing staff to both meet the needs of our community and existing national targets that we are required to achieve by our commissioners. Indeed, an independent report the Trust commissioned way back in 2013 confirmed that, and we’re dealing with a lot more calls and patients now than the Trust was then. We simply have to address how we are resourced both in the short and long term. 

Therefore, we have been working with our commissioners on three particular areas:

  • Developing a recovery action plan; this is a short term solution, whereby we’re hoping to secure significant financial investment for the year so that we can increase our capacity quickly. That could be by using measures like private ambulance services (PAS) and agency staff for example.
  • Building a business case to develop clinical hubs in our EOCs, so that we can treat and manage more patients over the phone over the next 12 months. Our experience over the Easter weekend proved that with more clinical capacity in our EOCs we can manage more patients over the phone and reduce the pressure on the overall emergency service.
  • Developing a new operating model, and securing additional investment for it; we can’t rely on using PAS or agency staff long-term, so we need to move to a new way of working that will see us manage more patients in the community, develop the clinical skills of staff, and create career pathways for colleagues across the Trust. 

I will share more information with you over the coming weeks as discussions unfold.  In the meantime we will continue with our recruitment plans which we kicked off last week with the launch of our associate ambulance practitioner (AAP) recruitment drive. We are looking to recruit 150 AAPs, who will have a similar scope of practice to our current technicians. Please help us to spread the word where you can by sharing with friends or sharing some of our @EEAST_jobs tweets. We’re putting a lot of work into getting the right people into EEAST; later this month we’ll be represented at the large EU Health Sector Jobs Expo in Dublin to encourage registered EMTs, paramedics and advanced paramedics to come and join EEAST.

Discussion with Unison colleagues about balancing patient safety and staff wellbeing continues. Of course we are at an early stage and there is much work to do, but it appears that a positive and consensus-based solution is possible, and we are absolutely committed to working towards this. 

I personally am very proud of our organisation, my colleagues, and what we all do, together, for patients every day. A small example, but I visited Newmarket yesterday and met Kirsten and Dan, who were just cleaning up following an RTC they had attended.  The support and professionalism they showed in helping the motorcyclist at the incident was undoubtedly hugely appreciated and reflects on the caring nature of our service. And that’s just one example of the care, compassion and pride from one crew. Moments like that happen across our six counties and our various functions every day.

So I think we have a very bright future as we continue to build on the progress we have made over the last six months, and I am committed to being part of team EEAST that is a leading light in how ambulance services deliver their services in the future. Thank you again for your extraordinary hard work and commitment; despite the demand and the pressure, you continue to deliver the best possible care you can to our patients. Please just make sure that you are also taking time to look after yourselves – we have a number of excellent wellbeing services in place and there is absolutely no shame in seeking a little extra support or help should you need it.

Here’s to the future.


Published 7th April, 2016

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