Ambulance trust could turn to foreign paramedics in recruitment drive

Andrew Morgan, interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service.

Andrew Morgan, interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

OVERSEAS paramedics from countries including Australia and Canada could help solve the East of England Ambulance Service’s recruitment drive, its chief executive said this week.

Proposals to hire 350 more front-line staff at the under-fire ambulance service were announced in April as part of a turnaround plan for the under-performing NHS trust.

Bosses at the 999 trust have recruited 160 emergency care assistants and paramedics since then, but its interim chief executive said the organisation needed a “few hundred more” than their previous estimate and medics from abroad could help fill vacancies.

Andrew Morgan, who has been in the interim role since December, said he was looking to find £20m of savings from back office and support functions to fund more front-line jobs and double staffed ambulances to help improve response times in the region.

Mr Morgan added that redundancies were a possibility at the end of the year. However, a restructure of the East of England Ambulance Service would not involve a reduction in paramedic, call handler or dispatch staff numbers.

“We need to recruit more paramedics because we need more ambulances. We are getting as much of our resources out there, but we need more and that does not happen overnight.”

“You can not go down the job centre for a paramedic. We can entice them from other trusts and we have a number of student paramedics that will come to fruition over the next 12 to 18 months. We will look overseas and anywhere for quality staff. We want the brightest and the best and we would look at what countries have similar paramedic services to ours like Canada and Australia. We are looking to see if we can turn nurses into paramedics and people coming from the military who worked as medics,” he said.

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The region’s ambulance service, which covers Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, has been criticised by MPs, patients and the health regulator, the Care Quality Commission, over poor response times.

However, the trust is still failing to hit its trust-wide target of attending at least 75pc of the most urgent 999 calls within eight minutes and to get a transportable resource to 95pc of them within 19 minutes.