To date this year 2016/17 there are 204 unfilled paramedic posts in the North West, the most vacancies of any trust in the country.
Freedom of Information requests show that ambulance trusts in England had over 900 paramedic vacancies in 2015/16.
North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust said that paramedic recruitment is “currently an issue nationally as there aren’t enough trained paramedics available to fill all of the vacancies”. The Trust is recruiting from trained paramedics from overseas to fill posts and relying on paramedics to work over time to fill gaps.
Figures on the national paramedic shortfall come at a time when the latest figures from NHS England show that nationally, ambulances are failing to respond to some of the most critical patients within 8 minutes.
The most recent data shows that the Government had failed to meet all three targets for ambulance response times.
In the North West, only 64.6per cent of “Red 1” calls were responded to within 8 minutes only 63 per cent of “Red 2” calls were responded to within 8 minutes, falling short of the 75 per cent target.
Commenting on the findings, Shadow Health Minister and MP for Ellesmere Port Justin Madders, said:
“We all know the NHS, and in particular the ambulance service, is under huge pressure and these figures show part of the reason why. The paramedics who work for our NHS do a fantastic job but the sad truth is there are simply not enough of them.
“High stress and low morale manifest themselves in poor retention levels and gaps in the service which mean some of the most urgent 999 calls don't get responded to in time.
“These figures shouldn't come as a surprise to the Government who have presided over a deterioration in the NHS for a number of years now. They really need to turn the tide on this and sort out the hugely stretched ambulance service.”
Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, said:
“These new figures showing that there is a national shortage of paramedics will make worrying reading for patients.
“This news comes at a time when ambulance trusts are missing key targets to respond to serious calls, and A&E departments are bursting at the seams.
“Our paramedics work extremely hard to look after patients all year round, and the Government needs to act now to make sure hard working staff get the support they need to deliver safe care to patients when they need it most.”