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East Midlands: Save our ambulance service
Charlie Taylor, Derby
East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) is in a period of consultation over proposals that would mean the closure of around 60 stations. They are to be replaced with 13 super stations and 'standby points'. These will probably be portable cabins or shared premises with the police or fire service.
The chief executive says this plan will improve response time performance, provide better welfare for staff and allow EMAS to operate within the budget.
The reality is this is a cost cutting exercise. The current stations require repairs estimated to cost £12 million. Also, if EMAS does not achieve its target to reach 75% of life-threatening emergency calls within eight minutes then the Trust faces a potential fine of £2.5 million and it risks not achieving Foundation Trust status.
When EMAS lost the contracts for patient transport services, a third of the ambulance service was privatised. This was done under Labour but it was in the spirit of the Con-Dems' vision for as much privatisation as possible and as many cuts as they can get away with.
The hub and spoke approach will mean hubs in high density areas. For Derbyshire the plan is for one in Chesterfield and one in Derby. This means some staff will have to travel further to work. Considering some staff do 12-hour shifts this increases the risk of fatigue.
Crews working in the rural areas will have to travel much further to collect and return their ambulance. For example, New Mills crews will have to travel to Chesterfield to pick up the ambulance. Staff that live in New Mills will spend up to an hour travelling to pick up their ambulance. This puts patients at risk.
It is also likely that when the crew pick up their ambulance in Chesterfield, they will end up responding to an emergency in that area. That is because the super stations are in high density areas.
This is how the Trust is probably calculating the 5% improvement in response times. They are putting more crews where there are more calls at the expense of the rural and smaller urban areas.
OK for the people of Chesterfield and Derby and bad for everyone else in Derbyshire.
The same goes for Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire/Rutland. What EMAS desperately needs is more crews on the road but there is no mention of this in the proposals.
Communities who are not in the close vicinity of a hub will campaign to save their station. This is already happening in areas like Bassetlaw, Ripley and Hinckley.
In Ripley, Derbyshire, Socialist Party members have been campaigning against the closure of our local station. Reflecting support for this we sold 23 copies of the Socialist in one hour and collected several names of people who were interested in setting up a broad campaign to save the station.
As well as local campaigns there is a need for a region-wide coordination to say no to all the cuts. We must resist any attempt to pit town against town.
An east midlands demonstration against all attacks on the ambulance service, linking up with other campaigns in defence of the health service must be called by the trade unions.
- Ripley campaign meeting. Wednesday 5 September 7.30pm at the Pear Tree Pub, High Street Ripley. (opposite the co-op).
In The Socialist 29 August 2012:
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