• Trust will recruit more staff and buy new ambulances
  • SECAmb has struggled with targets including answering calls promptly
  • £10m this financial year and similar levels for next two

Commissioners are to pump an extra £10m into ambulance services in the south east this financial year so national standards for responding to emergency calls can be met from the middle of 2019.

South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust will use the money to buy more ambulances and recruit more staff but is still likely to rely on private ambulance services and staff overtime to provide the hours of cover it needs. 

The 22 clinical commissioning groups across Kent, Surrey, Sussex and North East Hampshire will also make similar levels of investment over the next two years.  

SECAmb chief executive Daren Mochrie said the extra funding was “an important step” ahead of the winter months: “I am really pleased that by working closely with our commissioners over a number of months we have been able to agree and secure this vital additional funding. This is great news for our patients and staff and a positive move to ensure we are better placed to meet and tackle the demand and challenges we face in the years ahead.”

An independent review looked at what SECAmb needed to deliver the ambulance response programme, adopted by all ambulance services in the UK. It took into account rising demand of 3.9 per cent a year.

The review – by Deloitte – suggested SECAmb needed between £203m and £208m a year in early 2019-20 to enable it to meet the standards of the ARP and this would rise to £215m to £219m by the end of 2020-21. According to its 2017-18 annual report, A&E income was £192.6m.

Delivering services which reach the ARP standards would need 2,413 full time equivalent staff by 2020-21, the review suggests, and it might be feasible to recruit 462 staff. However, even with this level of recruitment “additional hours would be needed in the form of overtime and private ambulance services,” it said.

Emergency operations centre staff would need to swell by 30 per cent; SECAmb has struggled to answer calls promptly and shortage of control room staff has been linked to some deaths

Matthew Tait, joint accountable officer for North West Surrey CCG which is the lead commissioner, said: “The outcome of the jointly commissioned independent review has provided us with a clear plan of action that will address a number of challenges facing the trust and improve care so this is a really positive development for patients, the trust and for us as commissioners.

“We recognise additional resources are needed to deliver these improvements and a key part of the plan includes substantial additional investment not only this year, but every year for the next few years so we can achieve our ambitions and really transform how care is provided in the longer term. These improvements will also support the wider health and care system, particularly as we head towards winter, so this is a really positive development that will benefit both patients and the wider system.”