Hartlepool MP lobbies Jeremy Hunt over ‘chronic’ ambulance underfunding

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Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has written to Jeremy Hunt calling on the government to end what he calls the “chronic and unfair” funding of the region’s ambulance service.

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is the lowest funded service in England.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

It receives about £10 less per person than the best funded ambulance service in the South East equivalent to £26million a year.

NEAS director of communications Mark Cotton told a regional health scrutiny committee yesterday, if the service was funded to the national average it would pay for an extra 130 paramedics.

Mr Hill has written to the Secretary of State for health demanding answers over the imbalance in funding.

He said: “Our office took immediate action to write to the Secretary of State and put a question to the Department of Health about resolving the chronic and unfair underfunding and difference between NEAS and other regional services.

“I will continue to raise it in the house until that unfair imbalance is addressed.”

A National Audit Office report shows that the NEAS receives £26.70 compared with £36.60 for the most costly ambulance trust.

Despite that it says it performs comparatively well and reach are about 370 potentially life-threatening incidents within eight minutes every day.

Mr Cotton stressed there was no direct correlation between the amount of money trusts get and quality of care.

He said: “Only one ambulance service is rated outstanding and they are funded about the national average.

“We have a lot of efficiencies in our organisation which is why we provide really good value for money.

“Where I think we do need to focus particularly with new ambulance standards is our paramedic workforce.”

Mr Cotton said NEAS wanted to improve its ration of paramedic to non-paramedic staff which is currently 55-45 compared to 70-30 for the ambulance trust rated outstanding.

NEAS is recruiting 42 new paramedics after receiving an additional £3.9m, leaving it just two short of its capacity.

Chair of the North East Joint Health Scrutiny Committee Councillor Ray Martin-Wells praised the ambulance trust for its successful recruitment drive.

Coun Martin-Wells said: “The sooner that happens the better. For the funding that NEAS gets they are very good value for money and they do an excellent job.”