East of England ambulance chiefs deny 'cuts' safety risk

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A union has claimed patients in the East of England could be put at risk by cuts to staff and ambulance numbers.

Unison said the changes could result in people facing longer waiting times to receive treatment.

But the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) insisted no staff would be made redundant.

EEAST said the changes would be "closely monitored" to ensure patient safety was maintained.

Unison said the move - part of efficiencies planned to save £50m over five years - would see 31 fewer "night shift" ambulances available in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

'Scaling down'

The Unison spokesman also claimed vacancies at EEAST had been held, with 260 posts removed.

The EEAST said each of the 260 posts was an unfilled vacancy and added there were plans to recruit 114 emergency care assistants and 24 paramedics.

Extra rapid response vehicles would also be introduced, the EEAST said.

Gary Applin, of Unison, said: "The proposed scaling down of resources across all areas will put patients at risk.

"The trust's own figures show that, in many areas, staffing levels will be below what is needed for many hours of the day.

"In rural areas, patients will wait for longer for any member of trust staff to attend in an emergency."

'Better for the patient'

But ambulance service bosses said the "redesign" of frontline rotas represented a "better" use of resources.

They said it was part of moves to find savings while coping with more 999 calls.

Under the plan, more people would be checked through "in-depth" telephone assessments, potentially cutting ambulance call-outs.

"It is estimated that as this service continues to build, we will be managing up to 170,000 calls a year through this process," an EEAST spokesman said.

"This is better for the patient, a more efficient way of working and frees up ambulances to respond to people in the local community who need them."

The spokesman said £400,000 would also be invested in rural staffing.

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