Real problems forcing change

Changes to the controversial proposals for the region’s under-performing ambulance service in the High Peak are being considered, Phil Milligan said in a wide-ranging interview with the Advertiser.

“It is clear that the ‘purist’ model does not fit ideally in every area and the High Peak’s area is one so we are looking to see what changes we should make so that the area gets the right amount of ambulance cover,” said the EMAS ambulance chief.

Staff concerns over response times and the hour’s journey to the M1 were among “real problems”: “We’ve listened to the concerns that staff have, people saying ‘well I like this particular bit, it would be great if I could pick up my vehicle and it was well maintained but if that means an hour’s journey to pick up that vehicle then it’s got real problems and I don’t like it.’ So there will almost certainly have to be some modifications for some areas.”

A public consultation into the proposals closes on December 17 with the EMAS board receiving a consultation report on January 10 before receiving the final proposals on January 28.

So with changes to the original proposals before they are put before the trust board already expected, does Mr Milligan believe the time frame gives the trust enough time to adapt to the things that have come out in the consultation?

“Yes I do, because we are already sharing. I’m really pleased with the consultation and what it’s bringing out. People are being very clear with us what their anxieties are and I understand those but other people are saying but you could do this, there are other ways of approaching it.”

And, explaining the reasons behind the review, Mr Milligan added: “In the last few years we’ve not been achieving the national performance standards and we have, for example, the highest sickness rates for all ambulance services, indicating there’s a problem with the way we manage our staff.

“So we’ve set out a programme to do what we should be doing which is for patients, get there more quickly, and provide better support for our staff.”

The review has caused widespread controversy since the plans were first revealed in May. But EMAS are convinced that the changes will benefit patients.

“The first thing is that the response times will go up by about five per cent on what’s our A8 target, that’s the response time for those with the most serious illnesses or emergencies,” Mr Milligan said. “The second is that we would achieve the A19 target, which is 95 per cent of patients with an ambulance vehicle within 19 minutes and we’ve not been achieving that.

“We’re already making some improvements so we are achieving A8 for the year and we are currently close to achieving A19 for the year so we need to make sure that a) we can achieve those targets and b) we can always achieve them.

“In other words, this isn’t a short-term improvement that could soon disappear. The change programme is aimed at making sure the organisation can achieve on an ongoing basis.”