North East Ambulance Service to receive share of £55m to boost staff numbers

The North East Ambulance service will be given a share of an extra £55 million to boost staff numbers ahead of winter.

The funding from the NHS will help ten ambulance trusts in England to recruit more 999 call handlers, crews and clinicians to work in control rooms.

Each emergency service will decide locally how best to spend their budget to increase staffing numbers such as offering part time workers full time roles or offering staff incentives to help with retention. 

The North East Ambulance Service attended more than 2,000 extra emergency incidents across the North East last month compared with the same month in 2019, before the pandemic.

Ambulances attended 33,987 emergencies last month compared with 31,821 in June 2019. This is a 7% increase in demand.

NEAS also answered an average of more than 2,000 calls a day to NHS 111 last month - a total of 61,378 calls to NHS111 in June alone.

The ambulance service is urging people to 'do their bit' and only call in the event of an emergency when urgent paramedic assistance is needed.

NEAS has received a large number of calls in recent weeks for issues that could have been dealt with by other non-urgent services .

Helen Ray, chief executive of North East Ambulance Service welcomed the funding announcement saying it was a "boost to all the staff at NEAS".

Helen added: "However, our responses to some patients who have not had an immediate threat to their life has not been to the standard we would want. This investment will help us to respond quicker to those patients and provide some relief to our staff, who have had a difficult year."

In a letter to the ten Trusts, NHS leaders said that the funding would allow services to prepare for the winter period and to improve performance.

Each trust will receive a share of funding based on the number of patients they serve locally and they will be expected to start putting these measures in place as soon as possible.

Local services are being asked to work together on plans for how funding will help to reduce average waiting times for category one, two and three 999 calls.

Nationally, the picture is similar to that of the North East.

Ambulance services across England are dealing with a spike in demand, when compared to 2020 and pre-pandemic figures.

Ambulance call outs remain high with 783,050 incidents last month - 80,000 more than in the same month two years ago.

Anthony Marsh, National Strategic Adviser of Ambulance Services said: "Despite the pandemic, ambulance services have continued to respond quickly to the public when they needed emergency care.

Anthony added: "If you need urgent care, I'd urge you to go to NHS 111 Online or call 111 so that you can be signposted to the best option for your needs.

"And if you have been inspired by the phenomenal efforts of NHS staff over the course of the pandemic, there are a variety of vital ambulance roles available, including as a call handler, and I'd encourage anyone considering a career in the NHS." 

The investment comes alongside record numbers of A&E attendances in major departments, with more than 2.1 million patients attending in June, on top of delivering the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history and the fastest in Europe with 65 million people protected so far.

The NHS answered  more than 1.5 million 111 calls in June - the equivalent of more than 50,000 a day - and almost 300,000 more than in the same month last year. 

Managing Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives Martin Flaherty OBE, QAM, said:

"This additional funding for the NHS ambulance sector is very welcome indeed at a time when Ambulance Trusts are busier than we have ever been. The money will be used to help increase capacity both in terms of available ambulances to respond to patients and also in our control rooms, which are having to respond to unprecedented 999 call demand."

Hospitals admitted a total of 12.8 million patients in the last year, with 30 people receiving care for non-COVID conditions for every one person admitted with the virus.

Waiting times for non urgent surgery continue to fall with the number of people waiting more than 18 and 52 weeks down by a combined 130,000.