Ambulance station shake-up prompts fears lives could be put at risk in North Norfolk
Fears have been voiced that a shake-up of the ambulance service could put lives at risk in North Norfolk.
David Russell spoke out after the East of England Ambulance Service Trust announced proposals to introduce a new hub and spoke model, centred in King’s Lynn, Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
But questions have been raised over what that could mean for the future of stations at Cromer, North Walsham, Fakenham and Potter Heigham.
Ambulance chiefs insist there are no planned station closures.
Councillor Russell, a member of Cromer Town Council, said: “A lack of ambulance cover and longer response times could potentially put lives at risk.”
The councillor has called a meeting with North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb in an effort to save the station in Cromer which employs 36 people and opened in 1992 amid fears it could mean patients in rural areas have to wait even longer for an ambulance in an emergency.
He has also asked for the issue to be discussed at the next meeting of Cromer Town Council in North Lodge on Monday, July 24.
Councillor Russell said: “This is urgent. We are concerned that the town council has not been consulted on this, and neither have members of the public.
“We are worried about the effect this will have on people in Cromer. This is not being patient-led, and I don’t think it would save any money. How on earth are the ambulance services going to get out here? It’s 25 miles from Norwich and about 45 miles from both King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth. This station should stay as it plays a key role in north Norfolk.”
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said it had to save money.
Chief Executive Robert Morton said: “It is important to recognise that the public do not access services through trust estate facilities which are about services for staff and fleet. Were we proposing to change our service delivery to patients then, of course, we would consult with the public.” But he added: “The CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) expect the trust to bring our non-pay costs into line with comparable ambulance trusts.”
An ambulance spokesman said: “There are no planned station closures.”
An ambulance spokesman added: “We are planning a £42m capital investment over the next five years to bring our estates into the 21st century. It is looking at how we are going to develop a better estate and facilities for our staff, and one that is more cost effective. This is not a closure programme and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect.
“This is about making the most of our estate and working with partners to share more facilities and buildings to help increase our presence in the local community, especially in rural areas.
“Currently EEAST spends the most percentage of its non-pay spend on our estate out of any ambulance service in England.
“This means that we are spending more on our estate than we should be and we could deliver a better service to our staff from implementing a modern estate with make ready facilities. The existing estate does not support the requirements of a modern ambulance service. A final set of proposals are being drawn up around where the remainder of the 18 depots will be located and the supporting network of community ambulance stations and shared facilities. This will improve staff access to line managers and enable EEAST to develop better health and wellbeing facilities which we can’t do on our existing estate.
“Building on the success of our approach to establishing large hub locations in Stevenage, Chelmsford, Gorleston, Norwich, Peterborough, Southend and Hemel Hempstead, we will be working closely with our staff to make sure that future developments deliver the same effective results that we have been seen to date.”