Heated meeting over ambulance station closure plans

Part of the audience at the Emas consultation meeting at the business centre, George Hotel, Stamford
Part of the audience at the Emas consultation meeting at the business centre, George Hotel, Stamford
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A heated consultation meeting saw East Midlands Ambulance Service outline its plans to replace ambulance stations with community posts, standby points and hubs.

Andrew Spice, commercial director of the service, known as Emas, spoke to a packed room at the business centre at The George Hotel in High Street St Martins, Stamford, earlier today (Wednesday).

He said the organisation wants to make the most of its limited resources by closing 66 ambulance stations across the East Midlands, including those in Stamford and Bourne.

In their place, Emas wants to create 118 community ambulance posts and standby points. These would be small buildings or shared space with other services and would include toilets and rest facilities. Crews would be able to stop there during downtime, rather than pulling up in a lay-by or car park.

Thirteen ambulance hubs would also be built. Crews would start and end their shifts at the hubs, which would also house professional vehicle cleaning and maintenance crews.

Emas has suggested the closest to Stamford and Bourne could be in Sleaford and Boston, with no hub in Rutland.

Mr Spice said Emas’ coverage of the area would not change, but the new posts and hubs would enable crews to answer calls more quickly and would improve conditions for staff.

He pointed out that although ambulances are currently based at stations in Stamford and Bourne, crews spend very little time there and often answer calls while on the road.

But many of the 70-plus people who attended the consultation meeting were not happy with the proposals. Town and county councillors and members of the public spoke out against the plans.

Issues included the need for hubs in Rutland and Peterborough, concerns over staff working 12-hour shifts then driving long distances home from hubs, the need for more ambulances in the region and reliance on volunteer services and community first responders.

There was also concern over the lack of publicity for the meeting, and many were sceptical that their comments would make any difference.

Mr Spice and his Emas colleagues sought to reassure people that feedback would be taken on board. He said the location and number of hubs could be reviewed and the exact location of community posts had not yet been decided.

He also apologised for any confusion about the nature of the meeting, adding: “We have got three months to get a thorough consultation. We are trying to do as much as is reasonable.

“We will do more if that is what you want us to do. We are listening to this consultation and things will changed and be refined as a result of the feedback today.”

For full details on the proposals visit www.emas.nhs.uk/get-involved/being-the-best-consultation/