WORKFORCE: Commissioners in London have agreed to invest an additional £15m in London Ambulance Service due to rising demand, just two years after the trust announced plans to shed almost 900 posts.

The extra investment, about half of which is recurrent, will fund the recruitment of an additional 240 full time equivalent frontline posts and allow the trust to change how its service operates.

It represents a budget increase of about 5 per cent and means the workforce will grow by 7.6 per cent instead of shrinking by approximately a fifth, as was announced in 2011.

Chief executive Ann Radmore, who joined the trust in January, told HSJ the organisation was in a “quite a different place to a couple of years ago” due to significantly higher than expected demand.

She said: “Historically just encouraging patients not to phone 999 has not worked well and I believe at times it has increased demand. [Now] there is a recognition the call will come in, it’s what we do with it we are looking at.”

Ms Radmore said it appeared demand was being driven by an increase in calls from the frail elderly living by themselves and alcohol related calls from those aged 18 to 30.

The recruitment is part of the trust’s new strategy which aims to improve care for the less seriously ill patients who have seen waiting times increase as the service struggled to cope with a 12.5 per cent year on year increase in calls for patients with potentially life threatening conditions in 2012-13.

Ms Radmore acknowledged the experience of patients with less immediate needs was “not good enough” and was demonstrated by a rising number of complaints about waiting times.

The strategy commits the trust to attending or phoning back all non-life threatening patients within an hour.

The trust plans to recruit 240 full time equivalent accident and emergency support workers and 151 paramedics. It aims for every ambulance, car or bike to have a paramedic on it by 2015 with support workers providing support on ambulances.

This will allow more patients to be treated at the scene or over the phone. Ms Radmore said in future all patient care would be led by a paramedic as a registered healthcare professional, in line with the recommendations of the Francis report.