Shropshire Star

Confirmed: Mid Wales air ambulance base to close after health boards back controversial move

The Welshpool Air Ambulance base will officially close after 2026 after a final vote on the matter by Wales’ seven health boards.

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The Wales Air Ambulance in Welshpool will now close

In a meeting of the Welsh NHS’ Joint Commissioning Committee, the majority voted to close the base - which has served Powys for nearly 20 years along with a base in Caernarfon - and merge the two into a new site in North Wales, despite fierce opposition from the public.

The potential closure of the base in Welshpool has caused major concern in Mid Wales and in South Shropshire, with campaigners worried the loss of the site will mean crews will take longer to reach emergencies in the area.

Powys Teaching Health Board’s chief executive Hayley Thomas did not support the majority decision this morning.

She said the bespoke rapid response vehicle service in the recommendation is ‘essential mitigation’ for the changing bases and if details are not sufficient by October the committee should look at the options again.

The committee will expect an outline of the milestones of creating the bespoke rapid response vehicle service by their May meeting.

Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner Stephen Harrhy said it would take six months to work up the detail on the bespoke service although he said there would likely be two fast land ambulances based in the north west, and further details would be presented to the October meeting of the Welsh NHS’ Joint Commissioning Committee.

But he said there would be no changes to the bases before 2026 and the bespoke rapid response service would be in place by then.

The committee also agreed two extra recommendations – about the lessons learned from the process and to receive regular progress reports on achievement of the implementation plan milestones, and benefits realisation.

Several members of the committee including PTHB’s Hayley Thomas, chief executive of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and former Powys chief Executive Carol Shillabeer and Richard Evans, chief executive of Swansea Bay University Health Board asked for clarity over whether the decision taken to close Welshpool and Caernarfon bases would be reversible, if details for the bespoke RRV service were not sufficient.

But Mr Harrhy insisted the Wales Air Ambulance Charity needed certainty to be able to start making their plans for the change ahead.

Speaking following the decision, Welshpool councillor and member of the Save Welshpool Air Ambulance Base Campaign team Graham Breeze said: “I am far from happy by the way today’s meeting was led and it was obvious that the voices of those speaking in opposition carried very little weight.

“This is a very sad day for the people of the Welshpool area and indeed the whole of central Wales.

“Watching the meeting of the health boards it was clear that not all of the representatives were completely happy that the recommendations to approve the closures of Welshpool and Caernarfon bases gave assurance that Mid Wales and North West Wales would not be left with a poorer service.

“Additional Rapid Response Vehicles in the north was recommended but it was clear that the process had not yet been properly thought-through or costed so it was good to see this questioned.

“Two of the health boards, including Powys, did not offer support but the proposals went through anyway.

“This decision will lead to real public confidence issues."