Stamford town councillors quiz East Midlands Ambulance Service over station closure plans

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Councillors have called on an ambulance service to rethink its plans to replace ambulance stations with standby posts.

Stamford Town Council invited representatives from East Midlands Ambulance Service to speak at its meeting at Stamford Queen Eleanor School yesterday (Tuesday).

The service is consulting on plans to close 66 ambulance stations, including the one in Ryhall Road, and replace them with 118 community posts and standby points.

Paramedics would begin and end their shifts at one of seven new hubs, with the nearest hub to Stamford proposed for Sleaford.

Emas admits it is performing poorly and says it wants to improve response times within its existing budget.

The service says the new standby points would allow crews to rest between calls and have been chosen to reflect where the majority of calls come from.

Councillors raised a number of concerns with Emas director of finance and performance Jon Sargeant.

Coun John Binder (LibDem), a former paramedic, asked several questions. He wondered why an ambulance couldn’t be based in Stamford so paramedics could start and end their shifts in the town.

Coun Binder said the fire service and police in Stamford, along with Stamford Hospital, had all offered to share their premises with the ambulance service.

He added: “There are four Stamford paramedics with 120 years of experience and local knowledge between them.

“What about them? Why should they travel to Sleaford when they could start their shift in Stamford?”

Mr Sargeant said Emas had spoken to the fire service and police about sharing premises, but said nothing had been decided yet.

He said that ambulances would be based at one of the seven hubs was to reduce maintenance and cleaning times.

Under the plans dedicated mechanics and cleaners would work from the hubs, rather than travelling around to individual ambulance stations.

But several councillors suggested that Stamford’s location meant it would be an ideal location for a hub.

Coun Binder said: “Stamford sits on four county boundaries and is not recognised.”

And Coun Clem Walden (Ind) added: “As far as I am concerned the system is not going to work.

“It is not going to provide a better service to the public. It needs a bit more looking at.”

About 15 members of the public also attended the meeting to raise concerns. Bourne resident John Dean, who worked for Emas until 2006, said the changes would not improve anything.

He added: “All this is just a smokescreen. The only way to cut down response times is to have more ambulances on the road.”

Mr Sargeant said Emas would love to have more ambulances and was talking to its commissioning health trusts to try and secure more funding.

But he said the current proposals would allow the service to make better use of its existing budget.

Mayor of Stamford, Coun Bob Sandall (Ind), asked the Emas representatives to take on board the comments. He added: “As you can see there is a lot of concern.

“I hope you are listening and I hope you take away what we have said.”

The council also discussed next year’s budget at the meeting.