Ambulance bosses to be pressed over controversial station closures

Councillors will press ambulance chiefs over the decision to close four county ambulance stations at a meeting next week.

The closure of four community ambulance stations will be addressed by councillors at a meeting next week
The closure of four community ambulance stations will be addressed by councillors at a meeting next week

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has closed its community ambulance stations at Bridgnorth, Oswestry, Craven Arms, and Market Drayton.

The move has sparked concerns from residents and local councillors, but WMAS has insisted it will lead to a better service for the county.

Members of the county's Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee have now summoned representatives of the ambulance trust to seek assurances that Shropshire residents will not lose out as a result.

Mark Docherty, Director of Nursing, Quality and Clinical Commissioning at WMAS will be one of those to address the meeting on Thursday.

Committee member, Councillor Heather Kidd, said the ambulance response times for the county are "not good enough already", and added that the panel wanted to see evidence that the closures would not exacerbate the current situation.

She said: "There are concerns over what this will do to response times and we want answers on that. They have said it will improve response times, that is great but we want them to prove that."

She added: "We want to make sure the people of Shropshire are getting the service they pay for and deserve.

"When you get a paramedic crew the service is second to none – this is not an issue with staff. But the service we receive is not good enough and we do not want it getting any worse."

Murray MacGregor, communications director at the WMAS, said that by using the community stations crews were losing around three hours out of every 24, and that the new system – where they operate from Shrewsbury or Donnington – would effectively mean an extra ambulance for the county and dealing with an extra 5,000 to 6,000 calls a year.

Mr MacGregor said there was an acceptance from the trust that response times in the county are not good enough – although he said the problem was largely due to delays in hand-overs at the county's major hospitals – Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital.

He said: "We are in 100 per cent agreement with Councillor Kidd that response times in Shropshire are not good enough.

"We are doing everything we can to improve but until we get better handover times it will always be difficult to get to patients quickly enough and that is a great frustration for patients, their families and our staff."

Mr MacGregor said the way staff used ambulance stations had changed over the years, adding: "People do not sit at these sites waiting for calls. That has not happened for years.

"Why not use the money we spend on those buildings on actually providing more paramedics and more ambulances to go to patients to save lives, and not on buildings that sit empty?"

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