Anger as leaked ambulance email suggests controversial changes already agreed ahead of public meetings

Councillor Tom Deacon pictured outside Barnard Castle Ambulance Station with the leaked email

Councillor Tom Deacon pictured outside Barnard Castle Ambulance Station with the leaked email

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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Health & Education Editor

A LEAKED internal email which suggests controversial changes to the County Durham ambulance service have already been agreed ahead of a series of public meetings has angered councillors.

A copy of the internal email from the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) to ambulance crews in Teesdale and Weardale was obtained by Councillor Tom Deacon, a member of Barnard Castle Town Council.

He told The Northern Echo: “This looks as if they are already making these changes yet we still haven’t had a single public meeting. It is absolutely shocking.”

The NEAS internal email is about changes to the "skill mix" of ambulance crews operating in the two rural dales - proposed by the Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group.

The CCG want to abandon the policy of ensuring ambulances in the Durham Dales are crewed by two paramedics.

In a bid to improve ambulance emergency response times and distribute paramedics more evenly across the entire DDES patch, it wants to replace one of the Durham Dales paramedics with an Emergency Care Assistant - who has blue light driving and first aid skills.

The controversial proposal has already been criticised by councillors and the Weardale and Teesdale Ambulance Monitoring Group.

The CCG has called a series of public meetings over the proposals in Sedgefield, St John’s Chapel, Murton and Middleton-in-Teesdale next month to discuss the proposals - but Cllr Deacon said the email makes him think the decision has already been made.

The NEAS email states: “NEAS have received confirmation from DDES CCG that the changes have been agreed by their executive team and have now instructed NEAS as a provider organisation to begin the process of implementation,” and station meetings are being arranged for both Weardale and Barnard Castle ambulance staff.

The Barnard Castle councillor said he was also concerned at the absence of a public meeting in Barnard Castle, which has the largest population in Teesdale.

John Shuttleworth, who represents Weardale on Durham County Council, said: “It just shows that they are going to consult and then take no notice of what people say. People who live in the Durham Dales are going to be given a second class service

A spokeswoman for the NEAS said the CCG “want to bring the Dales into line with the rest of the UK in how crews are made up. The national norm being one paramedic and along with an Emergency Care Support Worker. That’s what we are now working towards”.

A spokesperson for DDES CCG said: “The CCG has secured agreement with the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) to a number of changes to the way ambulance services are currently delivered, with the aim of improving ambulance response times across the CCG area.

“On 5 August 2014, the CCG’s executive confirmed its commitment to support NEAS in implementing proposed changes to ambulance services across the DDES area.

“These changes have been informed by working closely with the Dales Rural Ambulance Monitoring Group and the wider Ambulance Patient Reference Group over the last 14 months. This valuable engagement feedback contributed significantly to our commissioning activity with NEAS and allowed us to secure agreement to these changes. These were presented to the most recent meeting of the Health Overview and Scrutiny meeting in July.

“As a result, the CCG is embarking on a series of engagement activities to present the changes to local people, to ensure that the public’s feedback is incorporated into how we implement and monitor these changes on an ongoing basis.”

Comments (3)

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9:20am Tue 12 Aug 14

grandmab says...

Mixed crews are the norm in most ambulance services in the world. The difference in wages is the usual reason. One paramedic is quite adequate. I worked in a service in Canada for 28 years and we had just as many distance and weather problems as they do in the northeast . When I started we were emergency care assistants and our local hospital upgraded us all to paramedic one. We were then paired with those willing to upgrade to paramedic two. . In the outlying areas we had an emergency response vehicle staffed by a lone paramedic who would stabilize the patient until arrival of ambulance or helicopter. Firefighters 9full time and volunteer) were trained as emt's and responded to all calls requiring emergency lights and siren. It became quite efficient after a few teething problems. Many ambulance services world wide have adopted the Ontario protocol. That being said they should not have taken unilateral decisions on this. They should have taken the time to educate the public and councils first.
Mixed crews are the norm in most ambulance services in the world. The difference in wages is the usual reason. One paramedic is quite adequate. I worked in a service in Canada for 28 years and we had just as many distance and weather problems as they do in the northeast . When I started we were emergency care assistants and our local hospital upgraded us all to paramedic one. We were then paired with those willing to upgrade to paramedic two. . In the outlying areas we had an emergency response vehicle staffed by a lone paramedic who would stabilize the patient until arrival of ambulance or helicopter. Firefighters 9full time and volunteer) were trained as emt's and responded to all calls requiring emergency lights and siren. It became quite efficient after a few teething problems. Many ambulance services world wide have adopted the Ontario protocol. That being said they should not have taken unilateral decisions on this. They should have taken the time to educate the public and councils first. grandmab
  • Score: 5

9:51am Tue 12 Aug 14

stevegg says...

Anyone with any common sense knows that decisions are always agreed behind closed doors prior to any public consultation, these have always been a sham and they only consult because they have to paying everyone lip service with the full knowledge that it makes no difference to the final outcome..
Gramndmab is right, the NEAS should be taking a leaf out of countries that are 10 times the size of ours who seem to get the balance right covering much greater geograhical distances, although not as densely populated. Why are our firefighters not utilised as first aid responders which would take some pressure off, as lets be honest, they are an underused resource sometimes getting no callouts in a shift whilst ambulance service cannot keep up with demand. The whole situation needs a complete rethink.
Anyone with any common sense knows that decisions are always agreed behind closed doors prior to any public consultation, these have always been a sham and they only consult because they have to paying everyone lip service with the full knowledge that it makes no difference to the final outcome.. Gramndmab is right, the NEAS should be taking a leaf out of countries that are 10 times the size of ours who seem to get the balance right covering much greater geograhical distances, although not as densely populated. Why are our firefighters not utilised as first aid responders which would take some pressure off, as lets be honest, they are an underused resource sometimes getting no callouts in a shift whilst ambulance service cannot keep up with demand. The whole situation needs a complete rethink. stevegg
  • Score: 5

12:33pm Tue 12 Aug 14

Robert_ says...

The suits already know the outcomes of these things long before any sort of public 'consultation', its just lip service to make people feel like they have input. You don't, never have and never will.

That's why marches with people carrying placards and petitions are a waste of time. When have they ever made the faceless bureaucrats change their mind?
The suits already know the outcomes of these things long before any sort of public 'consultation', its just lip service to make people feel like they have input. You don't, never have and never will. That's why marches with people carrying placards and petitions are a waste of time. When have they ever made the faceless bureaucrats change their mind? Robert_
  • Score: 2

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