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Ambulance trusts in England will be given an extra £55 million to boost staff numbers ahead of winter, the NHS announced today.
The funding will help the services to recruit more 999 call handlers, crews and clinicians to work in control rooms.
It will also cover the recruitment and retention of liaison officers who manage the handover of patients between ambulances and hospitals.
Each service will decide locally how best to spend their budget to increase staffing numbers such as offering part-time workers full-time roles, recruiting extra call handlers or offering staff incentives to help with retention.
Staff in England answered 890,000 999 calls in June alone – 300,000 more calls than in the same month last year and 150,000 more calls compared to June 2019.
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.
“While ambulance trusts are already extremely busy, the NHS is ensuring that services have the staff they need to deal with increased demand.
“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”.
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.
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.