Four Shropshire ambulance station closures confirmed
All four of Shropshire’s under-threat community ambulance stations will close at the beginning of next month, it has been confirmed.
Following the announcement two weeks ago that the stations in Oswestry and Craven Arms would cease operating on October 4, West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has now revealed the same decision has been made for the bases in Bridgnorth and Market Drayton, which will shut for the final time on October 3.
It means all Shropshire crews will start and end their shifts at one of the ambulance hubs in Shrewsbury and Donnington.
A WMAS spokesperson said all staff had been informed and had chosen which hub they wanted to be based at.
The service says the changes will not result in any deterioration in response times or crew availability, which is why no consultation was needed.
The spokesperson said: “It is important to note that there are already thousands of ambulances circulating through the Market Drayton and Bridgnorth area, just not necessarily the Market Drayton or Bridgnorth vehicle.
“This move will increase the amount of ambulance time available to respond to incidents, which will allow us to improve services.”
In the first six months of this year, there were 27, 156 cases in the Bridgnorth area of which just 1,112 were responded to by crews based at Bridgnorth, amounting to 4.1 per cent.
Likewise in Market Drayton, crews based at the town’s station responded to just 1,128 of the 28,026 incidents in the area – four per cent.
The spokesperson set out how time would be saved by taking the sites out of use, saying: “When a crew come on shift at a hub they get into an ambulance that is washed, cleaned, fuelled and has a standard load list on it. This is not the case for those on a community ambulance station (CAS) site.
“When they start, the crew have to check their vehicle to see what is on board. At some point during their shift, they have to drive to the hub to swap over their vehicle for a made ready vehicle.
“They also have to go back to their CAS point for meal break, and have to go back to the CAS point at the end of their shift.
“Between all of those things we lose the crew for a minimum of over an hour every shift, which equates to one case.
“The other thing to bear in mind is that there are spare ambulances at the hubs, but not at CAS sites.
“So if the crew are delayed at hospital, which happens, it means the crew that are coming on to relieve them don’t have an ambulance to use so we lose that crew for however long the delay is.
“It is not unheard for us to lose the CAS site ambulance for three hours every day, which cannot make sense. You don’t lose that with ambulances based at the hubs.
“So by closing the CAS sites we are actually increasing the amount of ambulance time available to respond in the area.”
Despite WMAS’s assurances, the closures have sparked widespread concern among the affected communities, with online campaign groups starting up in both Oswestry and Market Drayton.
A petition calling for the closure of the Oswestry base to be halted has reached nearly 2,000 signatures, while one demanding the Market Drayton station be spared the axe is nearing 1,000 signatures.
A motion calling on Shropshire Council to oppose the closures will be tabled at a meeting next week by councillors representing all four affected towns.
A public meeting has also been called with WMAS representatives in Oswestry for Monday, September 27, at the Wynnstay Hotel starting at 7pm.