Shropshire Star

Politicians criticise decision to close Mid Wales Air Ambulance base

Montgomeryshire politicians have called for Welsh Government Ministers to intervene over the decision to close Welshpool’s Air Ambulance Base

Craig Williams MP and Russell George, member of the Welsh parliament, at the Welshpool air base

The NHS Wales Joint Commissioning Committee has voted to accept recommendations to close Welshpool and Caernarfon’s Air Ambulance bases, to be merged into a new site located within North Wales.

A majority of the committee made up of the health boards of Wales voted for the proposal, but Powys Teaching Health Board and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board both opposing the plans.

Opposition to the closures has been extremely strong across three separate engagement stages, with more than 30,000 signatures gathered petitioning against the closures from Powys residents.

Local politicians Russell George MS and Craig Williams MP have been vehement in their opposition to the proposals since they were first leaked to the media in summer 2022, asserting that any closures will lead to a poorer Air Ambulance service for the people of Mid Wales.

The politicians have said that they now intend to meet with other local campaigns to discuss the next steps, as a formal legal challenge to what has been a shambolic process now has to be considered.

Mr George said: “From the time when plans to close air bases at Welshpool and Caernarfon were haphazardly leaked out in August 2022, the ensuing consultation and process has been incredibly poor. This is an issue of such importance to the people of Mid and North Wales.

“I have had conversations with the CEOs of health boards in the affected areas in recent weeks, to further emphasise the key points as to why they should reject the Commissioner’s recommendations. Even based on the analysis referred to in the Commissioner’s report, the small gains that are claimed to be made are very marginal.

“This is the wrong decision. I want to put my thanks on record to Powys Health Board and to Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board for rejecting these proposals.

“I have asked to raise this a question in the Senedd, as I believe the Welsh Government should now intervene and these proposals should be called in for a decision by Welsh Government Ministers, following further debate in the Senedd.’’

Craig Williams MP added: “Like most of us in Montgomeryshire, I am devastated at this decision today that will result in the closure of Welshpool’s Air Ambulance base. The last 18 months have caused unnecessary anxiety and frustration for the people of Montgomeryshire, over the future of a service they care passionately about.

“This decision will directly impact upon Mid Wales patients’ access to urgent medical treatment. Those who have voted in favour of the proposals have not considered the rural geography of our area, or that Montgomeryshire is larger in size than Greater London. All it takes is for one extreme weather event or road closure to severely impact the ability of Rapid Response Vehicles to reach patients in need.

“Although today’s decision is a blow, we must not consider this as a final defeat. Alongside Russell and local campaigners, we will now consider our next steps against these proposals - including any possibility of a formal legal challenge.”

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