East of England Ambulance Service running 'at deficit'

Robert Morton
Image caption Chief executive Robert Morton said the ambulance service was running at a deficit

The East of England Ambulance Trust has said it is running at a deficit after demand reached record levels.

At the trust's board meeting held in Cambridgeshire, it was heard it has a forecast deficit of £10.6m - up from a previously reported £6.2m.

The board decided it would have to run at a deficit to ensure it could respond to patients and keep its staff safe.

Chief executive Robert Morton said it wanted "more money now" from the government.

He said: "If we did not spend this money now effectively we would not have sufficient capacity to respond to the huge rise in demand.

"And there would also be tremendous pressure on our workforce."

The meeting, held at the trust's headquarters in Melbourn, heard demand for the ambulance service increased by almost a third in December.

Control room staff handled almost 7,000 calls between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day - 800 more than the previous year.

'Difficult circumstances'

The service reached 70% of the most life-threatening calls within eight minutes - 5% short of the national standard.

Mr Morton said a significant issue was handover delays at hospital.

Delays of more than 15 minutes at hospitals reached 7,841 hours in December, the trust said.

Mr Morton said they wanted recognition from the Department of Health that they were doing their "best in very difficult circumstances".

"We would want more money and we want it now," he said.

"I think the Secretary of State would give us that money if he had it available to him."

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