FINANCE: Controversial planned cost-saving changes to ambulance services in the East of England are being revised after an unexpected rise in demand.

East of England Ambulance Service Trust has reviewed previous cost-saving proposals, increasing hours of ambulance coverage for North Norfolk. Proposals for other areas are also being examined and could be changed.

In July the ambulance service put forward plans which it said would more closely match resources to demand, and save £50m over the next five years.

The trust said it was “the most intelligent analysis of the service ever” and based on workload patterns over the last two financial years.

However, in a statement last week it said: “Latest figures have revealed an exceptional and sustained rise in demand since April over and above that which was predicted, a picture which is reflected nationally.”

The trust said it is therefore investing an additional £3m, which it said would be used to put extra resources into a “handful” of stations.

Chief executive Hayden Newton said: “This shows our commitment as promised previously to continuously monitor demand and amend rotas accordingly to ensure we offer the best service possible to our patients within our resources. Rather than wait for the new rotas to come into force and change them again we felt it sensible to tie in the additional rota hours.

“Norfolk and Suffolk formed the first phase of the rota changes and we are currently working out what additional vehicles will be allocated there and in Essex, which formed phase two.”

Both Cromer and North Walsham ambulance services will get an additional double-staffed ambulance - Cromer for 20 hours a day and North Walsham  for 16 - over and above the original plans.

The planned changes have been controversial. In North Norfolk, 5,000 people signed a petition opposing them, and there was a camapign in Cromer and North Walsham which was supported by Stephen Fry.