More than 250 frontline staff are being recruited by West Midlands Ambulance Service in the next year in a bid to meet soaring numbers of emergency calls in the region, it has been announced.
Despite being the third lowest funded ambulance service in the country, chief executive Anthony Marsh told an annual board meeting last night that the service would continue to prioritise funding for training and recruitment of paramedics.
He unveiled a plan to recruit 264 extra frontline workers in this financial year – with many to be introduced in the Birmingham and Black Country areas. This compares to 87 new frontline staff taken on in the last financial year.
About 80 of the new recruits will come from university, 100 will be in-training paramedics, while the rest will be fully-qualified paramedics.
The pledge is part of a service plan to increase the proportion of paramedics in the workforce from 60 per cent to 70 per cent.
The drive also aims to reduce the cost of staff overtime and use of other agencies, which have helped the service deal with a 6.5 per cent rise in emergency calls over the last financial year.
Speaking at the board meeting at Villa Park in Birmingham, Mr Marsh said the ambulance trust had gained greater freedom to improve after being awarded foundation trust status this year. He said: “When financial pressure is put on a company, one of the first things impacted is staffing training – but we have continued to provide a very high number of training days.
“We have also continued to recruit new staff.
“We have been able to achieve all of that despite being funded below the national average, I think that is a real tribute to all our staff.”
He added: “The West Midlands is a huge and varied region and the way we deliver services is changing, which is why the way we support staff is really, really important.”
Murray MacGregor, communications director for West Midlands Ambulance Service, said most of the new frontline recruits would be sent to Birmingham and the Black Country, where the proportion of paramedics was lowest.
He said: “It makes sense to have enough staff to meet demand – rather than paying extra for staff overtime during busy periods.”
Over the last financial year, the ambulance service met Government time targets in reaching emergency and non-emergency calls. The service spent £205million and made a surplus of £3.9m, despite losing £1.6m from January to March. The ambulance service employs more than 4,000 people and runs 800 ambulances, response cars and specialist vehicles. It is also supported by more than 1,000 volunteers.