A petition signed by more than 3,000 people has failed to persuade ambulance service bosses to re-think the closure of Oswestry’s ambulance station.
The petition was started by resident Lawrence Chapple-Gill when West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) announced it was ‘reviewing’ the futures of its 10 remaining community ambulance stations in August.
Weeks later, on October 3, the bases - including Oswestry, Market Drayton, Craven Arms and Bridgnorth - closed for the final time with crews relocated to one of the service’s main hubs. Shropshire’s are in Shrewsbury and Donnington.
WMAS says the closures will save crews time and free up vital funds to plough back into front-line services.
At a meeting of the WMAS board of directors on Wednesday, chief executive Professor Anthony Marsh said bosses had considered the Oswestry petition as well as one from residents of Rugby in Warwickshire, which also lost its ambulance station this month, but remained certain that the right decision had been taken.
Prof Marsh said: “It’s absolutely the right thing to do to ensure that we can maximise investment in the number of paramedics that we employ, the number of student paramedics that we recruit and train, and the number of ambulances that we are able to invest in on the streets responding to our patients as quickly as we possibly can.
“We know that on some occasions we are not always able to do that.
“Re-investing those savings into the front-line, having more ambulances available to respond to emergencies rather than having empty ambulance stations which provide little or no benefit to the service, that is why we took that decision.”
The petition from Oswestry residents was signed by 3,264 people and called on the service to carry out a full public consultation before making a final decision on the closures.
WMAS said no public consultation was required as the changes would not negatively impact the service, but has since apologised for the lack of communication with the public over the plans.
Prof Marsh said: “We have very carefully considered their concerns and reached a conclusion that despite, and I absolutely recognise it is a difficult decision to make, despite all of that it remains the best thing to do to invest that money into more paramedics and more ambulances on our streets.
“Having said all of that, we constantly review our operating model and we will continue to do so.
“We will continue, in light of changing circumstances, increasing demand, improvements in technology, to review our operating model so that it remains fit for purpose going forward.
Prof Marsh also confirmed all staff who had been based at the community ambulance stations were now based at the hub of their choice.
Mr Chapple-Gill’s petition read: “There has been no public consultation or engagement as to the reasons why they believe this is the correct thing to do.
“As a result, there are now major fears and concerns about what impact the closure will have on ambulance availability and response times.”
An online campaign group started by Mr Chapple-Gill attracted thousands of supporters, with the town council and Shropshire Council joining calls for the closures to be put off until a full public consultation had been carried out. A public meeting was also held in Oswestry with representatives from WMAS.
The petition added: “The people of Oswestry are angry and we want our views to be heard. We want our questions answered and our fears allayed.
“Prove to us that it’s in our interests. If that’s not possible, we want our ambulance station kept open.
“WMAS must postpone the planned closure. They must consult and engage with us. They must treat us fairly and with respect.”