New response records as we see in the New Year: your weekly update from CEO Robert Morton (4th January)

Robert Morton, CEO

I would firstly like to start by wishing you all a happy New Year and to thank each and every one of you who worked and volunteered over the festive period.

It’s fair to say EEAST has had an extraordinarily difficult time over the last two weeks. Demand has gone through the roof and we have witnessed new records in terms of responses, 111 conversion and handover delays. In summary:

  • We received 4,000+ calls, a new EEAST record
  • We had 31% higher demand than the previous four weeks
  • High level of non-conveyance from 111 calls
  • More than 35% of all of our 999 work was from 111 providers and more than 21% of our RED volume
  • We enacted our new “safeguarding red patients against arrival to hospital handover delays” at six acute hospitals
  • Mutual aid sought from LAS and SCAS for border area work
  • Surge black was implemented several times.

We have also seen a very high amount of hours lost due to hospital handover delays and a lack of availability to GPs and alternative pathways. Our demand and call referral has also increased. Usually our average weekday percentage of activity is typically 19-21% which is significantly above the national average. During the Christmas week (Mon-Fri) we averaged more than 28%. On the 26th and 27th December, we received almost double the number of 111 Red calls than usual for a Monday or Tuesday. We have had to procure more help from private ambulance services to reduce the capacity gap. I realise this will worsen our financial position, but the safety of our patients and staff is paramount.

We have escalated our serious concerns about the pressure experienced by everyone at EEAST and risks that have arisen from this extraordinary level of demand. We will continue to work with providers, clinical commissioning groups and stakeholders to reduce the pressure on you and keep our service delivery and care to patients at a high standard.

In the past two weeks however, we have successfully responded to more Red 1 patients in eight minutes than ever before. We have also delivered more than 9% on hear and treat calls for the last week and exceeded 11% on New Year’s Day which is a fantastic achievement by our emergency clinical advice and triage centre (ECAT) team.

Simply put, we have managed to keep our services on a safe footing, largely due to the hard work of everyone here. Not only have we managed to keep the EEAST ship sailing, but have also provided support to other services; the London Ambulance Service had a CAD failure on New Year’s Eve which put extra demand on our and others’ systems. This added extra pressure on our EOC team, who had to take extra calls for LAS and then pass them over to LAS for dispatch, as well as continuing to answer and deal with our own. Thank you for being so willing to help our wider ‘ambulance family’ – LAS got in touch with me this week to share their appreciation for your support.

But in particular, I want to thank every manager who was on call (and in reality called in continuously), every staff member who worked or offered to work additional hours over the festive period, and every volunteer who made themselves available to support their communities. I also want to thank all of those who made your contribution possible, i.e. your loved ones and families whom supported you to support our patients. Well done and thank you all.

Have a good week,


Published 5th January, 2017

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