Town ambulance cover reshuffle

Coun Keith Fisher
Coun Keith Fisher

PLANS for a major shake-up within an ambulance service have come under the scrutiny spotlight.

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is looking to change the number of vehicles covering areas in a bid to maximise resources and meet increased demand.

Bosses say it will also help ensure the right care is being delivered in the right place at the right time.

Emergency response vehicles are separated into three categories: double crewed ambulances (DCA) which always have a paramedic on board, rapid response vehicles (RRV) which carry one paramedic and an urgent care ambulance (UCA), which do not carry paramedics.

Hartlepool has two DCA covering the town which would increase to three, while RRV would reduce from three to two.

Meanwhile, Hartlepool will see the number of UCAs, which transport patients with non-life threatening conditions, reduced from two to one.

Therefore, the town will lose one vehicle overall.

Councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum met to hear ambulance bosses say it is not about making cuts.

Ambulance chiefs also confirmed the additional DCA, brought in to help provide cover due to the loss of A&E services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, will remain in place but calls were made for that to be permanent.

That DCA was not included in the figures.

Councillors heard the last full review was carried out in 2006 and this re-shuffle was aimed at having a paramedic at every 999 call that needs one.

Mark Cotton, assistant director of communications and engagement with the NEAS, said: “This is about using the resources we have now but in a better way.

“Demand fluctuates during the day.

“This is not about saving money, it is about maintaining the performance in the future which means moving some vehicles around.”

Figures showed between April and November 2011 in Hartlepool, the NEAS attended 84.05 per cent of the top priority calls within the eight minute target, or 2,879 out of 3,424.

Independent councillor Keith Fisher said: “I am not going to say I am happy, but I’m prepared to monitor and scrutinise how you do this very difficult job.”

Putting Hartlepool First group leader Geoff Lilley said: “We need to understand the big picture of why demand has gone up.”

Mr Cotton said there was no definitive reason, but said the aging population was a factor.

Overall, the Tees Valley area will see a reduction of one RRV, an increase of two DCA and an increase of one UCA.

The re-structure, based on record of demand since 2006, will see 108 hours more staff cover a week in the rapid response vehicles and 202 staff hours in the double crewed ambulances across the Tees area.

Staff have been consulted and discussions are ongoing with union representatives ahead of the changes being implemented from April 2013.