Harworth and Bircotes meeting over proposed ambulance station closures

THE BATTLE to save Bassetlaw’s ambulance stations heads to Downing Street next month where petitions will be handed to the Prime Minister.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 21st November 2012, 8:33 am

But back home the campaign continues to spread the word about plans by East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) to shake up emergency provision.

Harworth and Bircotes Town Council held the latest public meeting to discuss the proposals.

And despite the low turn-out, some serious issues were raised.

“The town council decided to call this meeting to explain to you the proposed major changes announced by EMAS,” said Coun Brian Letherland.

Mr Letherland explained that EMAS was in the middle of a consultation called Being The Best, aimed at improving ambulance response times.

EMAS is proposing to close 66 ambulance stations across the region, replacing them with 13 ‘super hubs’ and 131 community stand-by points.

Under the plans, Worksop and Retford ambulance stations would close. The nearest hub, where vehicles would be kept, cleaned and maintained, would be at King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield.

Three community stand-by points would serve Bassetlaw, based in Retford, Worksop and Langold.

“EMAS say this will improve services and deny it is a cost cutting exercise,” said Coun Letherland.

“But we seriously question that three stand-by points will meet the needs of the people of Bassetlaw.”

“On two occasions recently our local police have requested an ambulance as part of an incident they are responding to, and were told in both cases that an ambulance was not available.”

Coun Letherland said he worried this would become more commonplace if ambulance cover was reduced in Bassetlaw.

He said: “Crews will have to go to Mansfield to pick up their vehicles and when they are finished they will have to return them. In addition to this, after every call that causes the vehicle to become unclean or requires restocking, as we understand it, they will have to return it to King’s Mill.”

“We believe one of the super hubs should be located in Bassetlaw or the cover enhanced by having more community stand-by points.”

“We at Harworth and Bircotes Town Council believe these proposed changes are inadequate and will leave us at serious risk.”

Coun June Evans backed up these points and spoke of her concern that a Mansfield hub would be too far away.

When she asked meeting-goers what they would like to see happen in the future, the reply was unanimous – for the ambulance stations to remain open, or create a hub in Bassetlaw.

Coun Evans said serious concerns had also been raised by the health scrutiny panel at Bassetlaw Council, which had already written to EMAS chief executive Phil Milligan urging him to reconsider.

She also said there was a worry that call response times could be misrepresented by lumping Mansfield’s results in with Bassetlaw’s. She said: “It will increase the average and mask the true picture.”

Speaking as a member of the Save Our Services group, Retford councillor Adele Mumby addressed the audience with her concerns.

She suggested shift lengths would be cut because of the time it takes staff to travel to Mansfield, creating a ‘postcode lottery’ ambulance service in Bassetlaw.

“It is vital we not only campaign to keep the stations open but also to increase resources, because ultimately lives are going to be at risk if we don’t,” said Adele.

She also expressed concern that EMAS would start to rely more heavily on community first responders, like herself, who are only trained to perform a limited range of life-saving techniques.

Ambulance worker and EMASUnison events organiser Emma Bardney told the meeting that Worksop and Retford ambulance stations were already ideally placed for crews to respond to calls across the district.

Coun Letherland added: “There are a lot of ambulance staff extremely upset by these proposals. Such situations are a worry to the people concerned and do not make the workplace a happy one.”

“Every day they do a fantastic job and we thank each and every one of them for their fantastic dedication.”

He concluded: “It is only the people that can get this overturned, and if we have to go to the Prime Minister we will do that.”

Emma Bardney said a trip to London had been organised for 12th December when petitions organised by UNISON and Bassetlaw MP John Mann would be presented to David Cameron.

Speaking after the meeting, local resident and secretary of Harworth and Bircotes Tenants and Residents Association, Lynda Ridgeway, said she was disappointed that more people had not attended.

“People think this does not affect them, so they don’t turn up. It couldn’t be further from the truth – you never know when you might need the ambulance service. We will be taking this message out to into the community and urging people to show an interest.”

EMAS’ Being The Best consultation is open until 17th December. Responses will then be considered and presented to the board before any final decisions are made.

Another public meeting is being held on Wednesday 28th November at the West Retford Hotel. From 6pm EMAS chief executive Phil Milligan will present the Being The Best consultation and answer questions.

Find out more about the EMAS Being The Best consultation online at www.emas.nhs.uk, by emailing [email protected] or calling freephone 0800 917 9911.

Sign the online e-petition against the proposals at www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36228