Shropshire leaders insist on having a say on proposed Welshpool air ambulance closure

Leaders in Shropshire have insisted on taking part in a consultation on any proposed closure of the Welsh Air Ambulance base in Welshpool.

A meeting of the health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee on Monday was told that a consultation exercise on the potential closure of air ambulance bases in Welshpool and Caernarfon in favour of a new hub in North Wales has been delayed.

"They are not just a Wales Air Ambulance," said Councillor Heather Kidd. "Our air ambulance respond to their calls and theirs come to us."

She told fellow councillors that a member of her family had been helped by an air ambulance during a severe asthma attack.

They fear is that it will take emergency air ambulances much longer to reach remote rural areas such as south west Shropshire, if the emergency response cannot come from Cosford.

She added that many local people and organisations, including parish councils, had been donating money to the Wales Air Ambulance, which is a charity. They may not want to donate money if the service moves to north Wales.

Councillor Kidd added that problems with land ambulances were well known, especially in rural areas.

"We always come out much the poorer. What about rural areas? What about us?"

During discussion of care services - in particular services for carers - a frustrated Councillor Kidd said: "I wonder why I come to this committee because nobody ever thinks of the rural areas."

A move of the air ambulance to north Wales has been met with widespread concern, with more than 20,000 people signing a paper and online petition.

The service review of the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru), which works in partnership with the Wales Air Ambulance Charity, has agreed to "explore and maximise the additional activity that could be achieved from existing bases and to explore options to reconfigure the service".

An update on January 26 said it was "currently working with health board engagement, communication and service change leads and with Community Health Council colleagues to develop and agree appropriate engagement materials including an engagement timetable".

A spokesman added: "Discussions will also take place to agree the approach to engagement and the timetable. There are a number of ways you will be able to share your views including face to face, online sessions and an online survey.

"We still expect to start the engagement process in early February."

Moves to safeguard Wales Air Ambulance bases have been discussed in the Welsh Parliament.

A motion calling for the Welsh Government to work with its NHS partners and the Welsh Air Ambulance Charitable Trust to ensure that air ambulance bases in Welshpool and Caernarfon remain in operation was debated in the Senedd.

It was submitted by the Welsh Conservatives with support from other political parties but was defeated.

The winning amendment, tabled by Lesley Griffiths, Wrexham MS, recognised the invaluable work of the Wales Air Ambulance service in saving lives, and noted the Emergency Ambulance Services Committee is undertaking formal engagement as part of a review of the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Services (EMRTS) Cymru service.

The amendment noted the review is intended to ensure patients who need the service can access it no matter where they live in Wales or when they need it and noted no options or proposals have yet been agreed, nor decisions made.

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