A campaigner says she does not believe East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) bosses realise the level of concern over plans to set up 13 regional hubs.
The hubs – based in Kettering, Northampton and other towns across the six counties which EMAS cover – would replace the current 66 ambulance stations. Under the proposals, there would also be 118 new community ambulance posts and standby points.
At a public meeting of the EMAS trust board in Leicester this morning (Thursday, January 10), Chief Executive Phil Milligan announced the presentation of the final proposals would be put back until March 25. They had been due to have been published on January 28.
Dorothy Maxwell, who set up a petition in the Rushden and Higham Ferrers area which received nearly 4,000 signatures, said the delay showed EMAS had not been expecting the level of opposition to the planned hubs.
She said: “The fact they haven’t made a decision here today they have encountered more problems than they thought. The unions aren’t happy and I think the public aren’t either.
“It’s hard, but we are going to lose out. We have to keep on hoping that we will be looked after.
“The problem with Northamptonshire is there are rural villages. Even now we have a problem – our people are still waiting for ambulances when they are seriously ill. We have to make sure we don’t get a situation where you are waiting one or two hours for an ambulance.”
The board’s medical director, Dr James Gray, also said he was “concerned that the gap between urban and rural services is narrowed”.
Mr Milligan promised the trust board would be taking full account of all public feedback when it drew up its final plans.
He said: “It was hard work and we came under some considerable public pressure, and, in some cases, abuse.”
Earlier, had trade union representatives told the trust board they were unhappy with the proposals but welcomed the delay in making the final plans.
East Midlands GMB officer Colin Todd said: “If we ripped this proposal up we could probably come up with something better, but we have not had that opportunity.”