Ambulance chief’s apology to staff

Ambulance crews should not be blamed for delays outside of their control

Ambulance bosses are speaking out today following criticism and abuse that some members of the public have directed to crews after last week’s temporary meal break announcement.

Chief Executive Helen Ray said: “I am dismayed that our crews have received insults. Our media coverage should not have inferred or blamed them in any way for delays that are out of their control. I am very sorry that this has been the case. I have apologised openly to our staff about this and do so here too so they are clear that this was wholly unacceptable.

“I want to make it clear that our crews are working tirelessly every day to care for our patients. The last two years have been relentless for them during the pandemic and everyone in NEAS deserves to be commended for their efforts under these difficult circumstances."

Ambulance crews are not paid for a rest break, but they do respond to emergency calls during their downtime when needed. The temporary arrangements for breaks would see them sent to the nearest ambulance station or hospital; but only during periods when the service is under the significant pressures we currently face and in an effort to respond quicker to patients.

The short-term initiative is one of several measures already taken during months of extreme pressure which has seen the service at its highest operational alert level since July.

Other actions include:


  • working with partners across hospitals and commissioners to address delays in patient handovers.
  • increasing the number of clinicians in our control room to improve our triage and review those low acuity calls that do not need an ambulance response.
  • Actively recruiting more staff into our control room and onto the road and across the country.
  • British Telecom has implemented a procedure to reduce call volumes into ambulance control rooms for duplicate calls.
  • Clinically qualified operational managers have been released from non-essential meetings to care for patients and support service staff are undertaking some non-clinical tasks to support these operational managers to focus on improving ambulance response times.
  • Covid volunteers trained and working in our patient transport service
  • Additional support for Covid vehicle cleans while ambulance crews are on a break to minimize vehicle downtime

Helen added: “We have heard an enormous strength of feeling from our staff in the last week about the pressures that they have been facing. Our actions have always been motivated by keeping patients safe as well as looking after our employee wellbeing.

“I am upset and angry that some have interpreted this as a reason to blame our crews for ambulance delays. This cannot be further from the truth and during such difficult and challenging times we are all trying to ensure that the NEAS is not overwhelmed over winter.

“We are engaging with our union colleagues to look at the proposals further to ensure any and all temporary changes ensure that patient care and staff welfare are considered.”

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