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NHS 'still on a knife edge', says ambulance boss

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

An ambulance boss has said pressures on the NHS are no longer confined to just the winter and are instead seen all year round.

Terry Hicks, who heads up East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) in Norfolk and Waveney, appeared before county councillors today to answer questions on performance.

Members of Norfolk County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee questioned Mr Hicks and he admitted pressures which saw crews queued outside hospitals and patients facing long delays had continued past the winter months.

And only now was demand easing on the health service.

Chairman of the committee, Michael Chenery, who represents Docking for the Conservatives, said he had noticed ambulances queuing outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.

He said: “It was only a couple of months ago I heard a remark ‘what are all those ambulance doing outside lined up?’. How is that going now, has that been resolved?”

Mr Hicks said: “I would have to say no, it has not improved, and I think the health system as a whole is really struggling.”

Labour councillor for Town Close, Emma Corlett, added: “You said just now the turnaround problem was not really resolving and now we’re almost into June, so is it realistic to look at winter pressures or is it pressures all year round?”

Mr Hicks said: “I don’t feel there’s a seasonal issue anymore, demand is year round for us.”

He added: “I do feel that the system is under immense pressure and it’s only now beginning to recover. But it’s still on a knife edge as far as I’m concerned.”

It comes after a report, compiled by senior clinicians from local NHS services, concluded no patients died as a result of winter ambulance delays.

The full report has not been released but the trust said three people did suffer severe harm in a three-week period over Christmas and New Year and chief executive Robert Morton said they would learn from each case.

But Ms Corlett pointed out today that problems in the health system extended past the three-week window and into February and March when the region was hit by the Beast from the East.

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