A union chair has said morale at the region's ambulance service is 'seriously suffering' as ambulance staff are having their overtime shifts cancelled as a result of ongoing issues with vehicle availability.

According to an internal email seen by the EADT, some members of staff working for the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) have had overtime shifts cancelled as vehicles have been off the roads meaning the staff are not needed.

This comes just months after the East Anglian Daily Times revealed that fifty per cent of the dual-staffed ambulances covering Suffolk and north east Essex were off the road on Monday October 23 alone, according to an internal email seen by the paper.

East Anglian Daily Times: East of England Ambulance Service Fiat model ambulancesEast of England Ambulance Service Fiat model ambulances (Image: EEAST)

Unison union's EEAS branch chair, Glenn Carrington, said the cancellations are impacting staff morale and patients will suffer.

“After years of understaffing and lack of resources, morale in the East of England Ambulance Service is seriously suffering," he said.

 “Turning up for a shift to earn some much-needed extra cash only to get sent home is another blow.

 “But it’s patients who suffer most from a lack of crews out on the road. The trust needs to sort out this vehicle crisis so we can get out and do our jobs.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Unison branch chair Glenn CarringtonUnison branch chair Glenn Carrington (Image: Unison)

An EEAST spokesperson said: "We schedule overtime shifts to ensure we can fully staff vehicles.

"Occasionally, these shifts can be cancelled at short notice if all available vehicles have a crew assigned to them.

"When this happens within 24 hours of a shift starting, our colleagues receive a payment for two hours to accommodate for this inconvenience."

In August, a Freedom of Information request by the East Anglian Daily Times found that 212 breakdowns were recorded among the trust’s Fiat ambulances, which were introduced just four years ago as part of a £54million deal, and now make up 442 of the trust’s fleet.  

The remaining 27 breakdowns were among its Mercedes ambulances, 47 of which were in the fleet before the Fiats were introduced.  

This means 47.96% of the fleet’s Fiat ambulances and 57.45% of the Mercedes vehicles broke down during August.  

East Anglian Daily Times: An EEAST Mercedes ambulanceAn EEAST Mercedes ambulance (Image: Simon Finlay, Newsquest)

A previous Freedom of Information request made by the EADT revealed that in July there were 113 breakdowns recorded by the trust - 103 Fiat ambulances and 10 Mercedes vehicles. 

In November, a trust spokesperson confirmed someone with specialist knowledge has been introduced to help with the issue of vehicles being off the road. 

The spokesperson said the trust is introducing 10 mobile vehicle repair vans, three of which will be deployed in the Suffolk and north east Essex area, seven-day working on their Operations Support Desk and weekend management support. 

They also said they were due to receive a delivery of 89 vehicles to replace older ambulances, increasing the fleet of double-staffed ambulances to 513 before the end of March 2024.

The trust has said the challenges around vehicles being off the roads have complex causes, including shortages of vehicle parts and global supply-chain issues.