• Trust is appealing for clinical and non-clinical staff
  • Chief executive says the pandemic is testing it “more than ever before”
  • Army and firefighters helping out in many areas

An ambulance trust is seeking 1,000 extra workers and volunteers to help it through the coming weeks, as it copes with the peak of the coronavirus crisis.

The move by East of England Ambulance Service Trust comes with Unison estimating a quarter the trust’s staff are currently away from work because they are either unwell themselves or having to self-isolate as a family member is showing symptoms.

It normally employs around 4,800 staff.

Unison regional organiser San Older said the new staff would help support members at a time when “they are haivng to prioritise what they can do”. An ambulance worker told HSJ the roles which would be taken by volunteer staff had not been explained and there was concern among staff that they might be inappropriate. “We feel we are being kept in the dark which breeds scepticism,” they said,  

The trust is looking for people with clinical experience such as paramedics, nurses, healthcare support workers or with “recent first aid training to work in clinical and clinical support roles.

It also wants drivers with licenced to drive patient transport vehicles or move vehicles between sites, and call handlers and despatchers. Support roles in areas such as ambulance and general cleaning, and administration, are also on offer.

The trust said roles across the region are available immediately and all training will be provided. But it has not indicated which of the roles could be filled by volunteers.

Dorothy Hosein, EEAST chief executive said: “The covid-19 pandemic is testing the NHS and the East of England Ambulance Service more than ever before.

“We are at the forefront of responding to the pandemic and helping our communities through this difficult time.

“We are expanding our temporary worker and volunteer service hugely to meet this demand and have a wide variety of clinical and non-clinical roles available.”

The trust would not comment further on its appeal or whether it was sparked by staff absence rates.

Many ambulance trusts are appealing for paramedics and other frontline staff who have recently retired to return, but the scale of the appeal from EEAST is unprecedented.

West Midlands Ambulance Service Foundation Trust has taken on second year paramedic students to help with cleaning and restocking ambulances, and in some areas paramedics who are graduating imminently are starting work early.

Firefighters and the army are also helping staff ambulances in some regions. London Ambulance Service Trust – which has faced a near doubling in the number of 999 calls – is being helped by South Central Ambulance Service FT which is answering some 999 calls and has provided ambulance crews.