COUNTY council leader Andrew Lewer has met with the head of East Midlands Ambulance Service to express his concerns over proposed changes to the way the organisation is run.
Ambulance bosses have last week closed a 13 week consultation into controversial plans dubbed ‘Being the Best’ which would involve closing a string of ambulance stations across the country, including the unit in Park Road, Ashbourne.
The stations under threat of closure would be replaced by ‘community posts’ dotted around the county and then two central ‘hubs’ - with Ashbourne’s nearest hubs being in either Derby or Chesterfield.
At a meeting earlier this month with the East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust’s chief executive Phil Milligan, Derbyshire County Council leader Councillor Lewer asked for reassurance that Derbyshire residents will receive equal access to emergency care as a result of any changes to the county’s ambulance service.
He explained he was concerned that proposals put forward by East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EMAS) could leave residents in rural and remote parts of the county less well served than others.
He said: “I was keen to meet with the Trust and felt the meeting was a positive one.
“I feel reassured there was a clear understanding of the local concerns and the need for EMAS to give further consideration to its proposals and the impact they could have on the more rural and remote parts of Derbyshire.
“There was also a willingness to work in partnership using county council and other facilities where appropriate to deliver the changes needed to provide improved emergency and urgent healthcare.
“We recognise the need for change but I am concerned that local people should have equal access to ambulance services following any changes to the service wherever they live in the county.
“I feel our concerns have been listened to and hope they will be reflected in the Trust’s implementation plans in the years ahead.”
The Trust is proposing changes to help it meet national response time targets and at the same time it hopes to save up to £30 million over the next five years.
The proposed changes, which are also in response to a rising number of 999 calls, would see the closure of 17 ambulance stations in Derbyshire to be replaced with two larger stations or ‘hubs’ and 26 smaller ‘tactical deployment points’ across the county.
The EMAS Trust Board has promised it will consider Derbyshire County Council’s comments and other responses next month with a view to introducing changes between April 2013 and April 2018.
Councillor Lewer has also confirmed the county council’s Improvement and Scrutiny Committee islooking into the service’s reorganisation plans.
Three months ago East Midlands Ambulance Service asked its staff, members of the public and organisations to take part in its consultation and the plans were met with strong reaction, despite assurances that the changes were designed to have a positive impact on the service as a whole.
On Thursday, January 10, the EMAS Trust Board will meet to review the responses and, on Monday, January 28, the final plans will be reviewed and discussed at the Trust Board meeting. Results are expected to be announced on Tuesday, January 29.