Shropshire Council bosses to call for reversal of ambulance station closures

The leader and chief executive of Shropshire Council will write to ambulance service bosses to call for the planned closure of the county’s community ambulance stations to be halted.

The council's leader and chief executive said they would now write to the ambulance service over the issue
The council's leader and chief executive said they would now write to the ambulance service over the issue

At a meeting of the full council on Thursday, members voted overwhelmingly to oppose plans to shut the ambulance bases in Oswestry, Bridgnorth, Craven Arms and Market Drayton at the beginning of October.

If the move goes ahead, it will mean all Shropshire crews starting and ending their shifts at one of the two ambulance hubs in Shrewsbury and Donnington.

West Midlands Ambulance Service says the closures, which were announced earlier this month, will not lead to a decline in response times – which is why no public consultation was required.

Councillor Roy Aldcroft, who represents Market Drayton East and is the current town mayor, told members he did not believe ambulances would be able to respond just as quickly to emergencies if they were being sent from further away.

Councillor Aldcroft, who worked as a senior operations director for the former Shropshire Ambulance Service, said he was also concerned about the health and wellbeing of ambulance crews if they were unable to access a station during their shift, to take breaks and use the toilet.

He said: “The four community ambulance stations which the chief officer suggests that we close are strategically placed near arterial routes – the A49, the A53 and so forth – and that allows crews to make use of the facilities as they are passing by.

“It also provides what we call rolling cover.

“It is quite important, I think, to have these community ambulance stations kept open so the crews can get their welfare facilities.

“Secondly in bad weather, snow and ice and flooding, we’ve got outposts on the periphery of the county that we can rely on.”

Councillor Aldcroft added that the main problem causing crew time to be wasted was problems with delayed hospital handovers, which he said WMAS should focus on before targeting stations for cuts.

Councillor Julia Buckley, who represents Bridgnorth West and Tasley, said it was important for the mental health of ambulance workers that they were able to get out of their vehicle – which someone may have just died in – for a break.

Craven Arms councillor David Evans said he was “appalled” to learn of the closure plans.

He said it was not possible for an ambulance to travel from Shrewsbury to Craven Arms in eight minutes – the target response time for the most serious life-threatening situations.

Councillor Evans said: “My brother had a heart attack a few weeks ago – an hour and a half we waited for an ambulance. I was sat with him, and I thought he was going to die.”

He added that sending more ambulances “thundering down the A49” to get to patients in the south of the county was an “accident waiting to happen”.

Councillor Evans said: “These ambulance stations should be kept open. Common sense needs to prevail here.”

Members voted almost unanimously to support the motion, with one abstention.

Council leader Lezley Picton and chief executive Andy Begley will now write to WMAS to voice the authority’s opposition to the planned closures, and will also write to the county’s MPs to ask that the matter be taken up with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid.

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