East of England Ambulance Service 'needs 421 staff'

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Media captionDelays make up nearly half the complaints to the East of England Ambulance Service

The East of England Ambulance Service needs 421 extra staff and 50 ambulances in the next four years to cope with rising demand, a report has said.

The trust's own review said it needed to fill 310 of those roles by 2015.

Demand for the service has risen by 6% in 10 months but, despite a recruitment drive, only seven paramedics have been hired so far this year.

Andrew Morgan, interim chief executive, said all trusts were facing similar recruitment difficulties.

The service covers Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

'Very poor performance'

It has been scrutinised by MPs and a health watchdog over its poor ambulance response times, particularly in rural areas.

The "clinical capacity review" said the service was currently under "considerable pressure" in all areas, with "very poor performance" in certain counties.

However, it also stated demand for the service was increasing at an underlying rate of 3.2% and predicted the introduction of the new 111 non-emergency telephone number would mean a further 60 incidents per day required an ambulance.

The review said to meet future targets the service would need to boost staff and ambulance numbers and also buy nine new response cars.

So far, only 48% of the service's stroke patients get to hospital within an hour, compared with a national average of 63%.

Most of the staff required would be paramedics, the report said.

Mr Morgan said: "We have been trying. We haven't got the numbers we want. It's the same in any ambulance trust.

"I'm not hiding the fact that recruitment's a problem. That's not down to me not trying to recruit people."

He denied the trust was "failing", saying: "It's a trust that's had significant problems, starting to come out of them. I accept that.

"I just want people to have a balanced view that we are doing a number of things much better than we used to do but we're absolutely clear we know where our challenges lie and recruitment is that pinch point."

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