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Ambulance service for Stamford and Rutland has a coronavirus incident room

The chief executive of the ambulance service that covers Stamford and Rutland has spoken about steps being taken to safeguard patients and staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

An incident room has been set up with a strategic commander and leaders are taking part in national and regional discussions to help plan the way ahead.

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) boss Richard Henderson said: "We are responding to an increase in demand, and working hard to digest what the latest national guidance means for our staff and patients so that we can identify immediate steps to take, whilst recognising some actions make take slightly longer as we review with NHS colleagues the specific ask.

East Midlands Ambulance Service has set up a Coronavirus Incident Room
East Midlands Ambulance Service has set up a Coronavirus Incident Room

"This issue is a huge challenge for EMAS and the NHS, and I want to assure you that we are responding by using national guidance (created from learning from other countries and expert advice), by what we find as the situation develops, and by using our approach to similar viruses eg flu and previous pandemics.

"I and my executive team continue to take part in national and regional discussions and planning events to determine our next steps, and to aid our service to get what it needs."

Mr Henderson said there are no new staff to help EMAS deal with the situation so they have set up roles to:

*focus on priorities

* ensure EMAS follow national guidance, particularly around the use of personal protective equipment and cleaning

* support staff who need to self-isolate

* plan for scenarios around increased abstraction, which means staff unable to work.

Mr Henderson said: "We have a Coronavirus Incident Room which continues to operate seven days a week, and a Strategic Commander who operates between 08.00 and 20.00 hours every day - we will keep reviewing this to identify if/when this needs to be increased to cover additional hours.

"Ben Holdaway (Director of Operations) is the EMAS Emergency Accountable Officer and Peter Ripley (Assistant Director of Operations) is the Senior Responsible Officer for this issue. They are supported by members of our management team to focus on emergency preparedness and resilience, operational response, and our Emergency Operations Centre (control).

"Internal communications and staff wellbeing is one of our key priorities and we are providing regular updates to our staff and volunteers, including updated frequently asked questions and answers.

"Understandably staff and volunteers are anxious about current events and my briefings aim to assure them that whilst there is no history on coronavirus to fall back on to tell us what to do, the safety of our staff and patients is a key priority and we are doing everything we can, working together with our partner agencies and key stakeholders, to protect the people we are here to care for.

"This week I have written to system leaders across the wider NHS to advise that for the foreseeable future we will not be participating in any external commitments or meetings other than those laid down under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, the reason being is that we need to do everything possible to protect core services.

"At this stage I have advised my Director of Operations that all operations staff and managers will not be able to participate in external meetings until further notice in order to protect frontline NHS Ambulance Services.

"EMAS colleagues in other teams will be able to engage with stakeholders using remote facilities where they are available. However, I reserve the right to change this if colleagues are redeployed to further support frontline services.

"This decision will not impact on our ability nor commitment to engage with statutory requirements aligned to the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, eg participation in Local Resilience Forums. Given our regional footprint it may be that our attendance to certain meetings; including strategic level meetings, will be via teleconference facilities."

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