East Midlands Ambulance Service has £491,000 of Government funding to pay for a ‘Joint Ambulance Conveyance Programme’, a 12 month pilot scheme in which fire crews are given their own ambulance to drive patients to hospital.
Since a paramedic will also attend incidents in a ‘fast response car’, surely such paramedic cars could be equipped to transport a patient to hospital.
Of course co-operation between all our emergency services should be encouraged, but if trained and qualified firefighters are to be used as ambulance drivers, they are clearly not available to respond to any contemporaneous emergencies and the concerns of the Fire Brigade Union are understandable. EMAS, with a £150 million budget, does not have the best track record in response times and last year were ‘fined’ £3.5 million for not hitting Government targets. That ‘fine’ is patently ridiculous, because it simply takes more taxpayers money away from an already over-stretched service and dumps it into another bureacratic black hole.
However, if £491,000 is now available to EMAS, would it not make more sense to use it to train more ambulance drivers and paramedics than to relocate ambulances to fire stations, where firefighters, with their own emergencies, may or may not be available to drive them?
The dedication, the skill and the courage of our front-line emergency service people is regularly applauded in local and national press. Sadly, senior managers, civil servants and politicians prefer to shuffle numbers and to dream up gimmicks instead of tackling the practical priorities efficiently with resources available. Do we need even more funding or just better management?
Bourne Road Colsterworth