Concerns raised that ambulance service is failing Haverhill

Haverhill Ambulance station
Haverhill Ambulance station

Fears have been raised that the ambulance cover for Haverhill is inadequate and is not serving the town as it should.

Borough and county councillor Tony Brown has contacted the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) as well as Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health, the chairman of its health scrutiny committee and the head of the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group to voice his concerns over what is happening.

Cllr Brown said a number of incidents in the last few months that illustrate the issue.

One saw a 75-year-old woman take a fall on the pavement of the Parkway estate in November on a Saturday afternoon.

A paramedic took 50 minutes to arrive but then had to request an ambulance, which took an hour to reach her.

Cllr Brown said: “I have made other enquiries and found that these cases are not isolated, our ambulance service has deteriorated markedly over the last few years.”

In 1982 he said Haverhill had a 24-hour vehicle and two day vehicles but now there is just one 24-hour ambulance and one rapid response car, which was avaiilable for 24-hours but last year was removed from 1am to 7am.

Cllr Brown believes the 24-hour ambulance based at Haverhill is spending too much time in Cambridge in order to help EEAST hit its target of getting to 75 per cent of emergency calls within eight minutes.

He added: “This is a lot easier to do in a city where you can get your patient quickly dropped off at Addenbrookes Hospital and then get back out to pick up more patients.

“Having the ambulance running back to and fro to Haverhill does not help them hit the targets.

“I suspect that the people of Haverhill are being sacrificed so that targets can be hit.

“The paramedic car is supposed to be tethered to Haverhill (but only when it has not got a job to go to).

“Quite often it will go from job to job and could end up 50 miles from Haverhill.

“Likewise with our ambulance it has not been unheard of to end up as far away as Southend or Clacton.

“Our ambulance service seems to be all about hitting targets and avoiding fines rather than providing a first class service.

“This is no reflection on their first class staff it is a reflection on how it is run, it needs a root and branch shake up, people are dying because of the present system.”

A spokesman for the EEAST said: “On average, we receive between two and three emergency calls in Haverhill between 1am and 7am. We plan our resources around when historically we have most demand. This ensures that the maximum number of patients receive the highest standard of care.

“We recognise that we need more paramedics which is why we are recruiting many more student and graduate paramedics over the coming months. Equally, we will be providing additional training for our existing staff as this will benefit both patients and the staff themselves.

“We constantly review the number and type of resources that we have on duty 24 hours a day and will adjust it as and when necessary.

“Following the appointment of Dr Anthony Marsh as the Trusts’ CEO, he has ordered a review into the levels of ambulance cover across the East of England.

“Anyone who is interested in becoming a student paramedic can apply through the NHS jobs website.