Ambulance service in Thurrock face “challenging winter”

THE East of England Ambulance service has admitted it is heading into winter in a “challenged position”.

Since Covid-19 restrictions ended earlier this year, the service has said it has seen a steady increase in calls across the region which has led to ‘extraordinarily pressure’ on the service reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

This has been caused by a return to usual levels of accidents and other incidents, plus an additional increase in acute illness that has been linked with patients not highlighting illnesses earlier during lockdown.

In response it moved to Resource Escalation Action Plan (REAP) Level 4 in August.

This is the highest level of operational activity and was carried out in accordance with the national REAP guidance – and a number of other ambulance trusts around the country have also moved to this level.

It means it can place additional support within its control rooms to answer 999 calls, increase the use of private ambulance services and consider requesting support from other agencies – such as colleagues within police and armed forces.

Tom Burton, the strategic planning director for the ambulance service, told the Essex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on October 7 that the service is keeping close eye on ‘demand profiles which are unlike anything we’ve seen before’.

He added the situation has been worsened thanks to acute levels of staff sickness, where it might normally see 30 staff off at any one time it is currently seeing up to 50 off.

He said: “Our response times are getting slower because that’s the knock-on effect of demand and our pressures.

“However what you will see in our winter planning documents is ‘we’re going to be in a challenged position and it is going to be hard’ but here’s our plans to mitigate it.

“We’re not allowed to use the word unprecedented because it’s what’s unprecedented now. But demand is continuing to rise and we are still suffering some of those sickness issues.

“So we’ve got it in constant review.

“I am currently assured in a month’s time I might have a different view but we need to see what happening in terms of some of those demand profiles which are unlike anything we’ve seen before.”

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