Health boss speaks over ambulance station closures

EMAS ambulance
EMAS ambulance

East Midlands Ambulance Service has proposed to close every ambulance station in Northamptonshire, except Kettering and Northampton.

The service has announced it is set to close down the majority of its 66 ambulance stations in the region, working from 131 ‘tactical deployment points’ (TDPs) served by 13 ‘hub stations’.

What an EMAS Tactical Deployment Point could look like

What an EMAS Tactical Deployment Point could look like

Hub stations have been proposed for Kettering, featuring 132 staff, and Northampton, with 129 people staffing it.

Ambulance stations in Corby, Wellingborough, Rushden, Northampton North, and Daventry, Towcester, Brackley, and Mereway have been earmarked for closure.

EMAS chief executive Phil Milligan said: “Our plans are to deliver better performance which we know is important to patients and staff, and the changes we propose should see our response to immediately life-threatening 999 calls improve by about five per cent which means we will get to more people faster, enabling us to provide better patient care.

“We know that East Midlands residents have been concerned about our response times, we now have a plan to deliver long term, sustainable performance. These plans are right for patients and right for our staff.

“The changes are clinically focused allowing us to make better use of our clinicians’ skills, to deliver on performance targets and quality standards, improve patient outcomes, provide more care closer to home and will help us to improve the working lives of our staff which is important to us.

“To continue to implement our quality strategy and to meet current and future performance standards, EMAS has to change.

“If we choose not to implement change, we will not be able to meet patients’ needs – as defined by response times, improve the working life of our staff, nor meet the financial challenges faced.

“I encourage people to read our board papers so they can be fully informed, and to make comment when our consultation is launched.”

The service has proposed to create 18 TDPs in Northamptonshire, which will take the form of booth-like units, or could be a building share with other emergency services, such as the police and fire service.

These points, which ambulances will be on standby from, providing they are not dealing with an emergency, will allow crews to drink, rest, and use toilets.

Towns with TDPs in them include Corby, Rushden, Wellingborough, Desborough, Barton Seagrave and Oundle.

The service has come under fire after failing to hit response time targets in the county, and in May, posted a 72 per cent rate of responding to the most serious 999 calls within eight minutes.

The Government-set target is 75 per cent.

EMAS claims most ambulance stations remain empty throughout the day with ambulances out responding to calls.

The proposed hub stations will support TDPs, providing a specialist team to maintain the vehicles rather than clinicians doing it, so they can immediately respond to calls.

EMAS says backlog maintenance costs for all its ambulance stations in the region is at £12.5m, and this will be reduced to zero should this proposal go through.

It is thought no additional funding will be needed to push through this proposal as it currently stands.

The proposal will be discussed by EMAS management at a public board meeting on Monday, July 23, and if passed, the proposals will go to public consultation.

A final plan will be presented in January 2013 following public feedback, and a timetable for implementing any reconfiguration has been set for January 2013 to December 2017.

Consultation is expected to cost about £175,000.