Plea to save ambulance stations as figures show 57 closed

An MP has called on the Government to review the closure of ambulance stations after figures showed 57 had been closed in the West Midlands over the last five years.

ambulance stock
ambulance stock

Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire, has made the call after the details were confirmed in a freedom of information request.

It comes as West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has been under fire over declining response times in Shropshire – as well as the closure of a number of the county's community ambulance stations last year.

The ambulance service has rejected the link between community ambulance stations and response times, saying that crews only use the stations to start or finish their shift, and are not waiting at the buildings to answer calls.

The service has instead highlighted the significant amounts of time spent waiting outside hospitals to hand patients over, saying the situation is the most significant factor in delays to response times.

It insists re-opening the stations would take more ambulances off the road due to costs.

The Freedom of Information request was sent to all ambulance trusts in the UK.

The responses showed the West Midlands as a major outlier with London only seeing two stations close, and neighbouring East Midlands seeing only one planned station closure.

In the West Midlands, 18 stations were closed in 2017, 15 in 2018, 12 across 2019/20, and 12 last year in 2021.

Mrs Morgan, who made ambulance station closures a central part of her successful by-election campaign, called on the government, and the Health Secretary – Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid – to take action to improve response times.

She said: "The Conservatives continued failure to address shockingly high ambulance waiting times is horrendous and exactly why they lost the North Shropshire by-election, they cannot afford to ignore this issue.

"The extremely high number of stations closed in comparison to the rest of the country shows that the West Midlands has been completely taken for granted by this Government.

"Almost every day residents get in touch with me and I hear stories of people who have waited far too long for an ambulance – for this to happen in the Health Secretary’s backyard is either sheer ignorance or an utter failure of leadership.

“Sajid Javid needs to get his own house in order: he needs to review the closure of ambulance stations, reopen stations where they are needed in our area, and invest in a Community Ambulance Fund. We simply cannot go on like this.”

A spokesman for West Midlands Ambulance Service said: "West Midlands Ambulance Service was the best performing ambulance service in the country for more than a decade, in part due to seldom-used ambulance stations being closed which resulted in us being able to put more ambulances on the road to help us save lives; something buildings don’t help with. Today, we are still the third best performing.

“Long hospital handovers delays impact our ability to get to patients quickly, which is why all NHS partners are working together to reduce them so that patients don’t wait longer for an ambulance to come to them than anyone would want.”

The Department of Health has been contacted for comment.

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