Save our ambulance stations

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People have expressed their fears after East Midlands Ambulance Service announced it could close stations in the area as part of a major overhaul of the service.

The Evening Telegraph spoke to readers after reporting the story on Friday and many said they were worried if crews were not based at stations in towns, response times to 999 calls could get worse.

Service bosses want to close existing ambulance stations and create regional hubs across the East Midlands.

Margaret Keevil, 74, used to work at Kettering General Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit.

Mrs Keevil, of Orchard Field, Cranford, said: “When I worked at the hospital we would sometimes have mums going into labour and being rushed to hospital – some would even give birth at home or in the ambulance.

“Time is of the essence in that situation, especially if the baby has problems or if the mother is haemorrhaging, so it can be a matter of life or death if the ambulance is even a few minutes late.

“I think ambulances have got to be locally placed. If they shut the stations down they will have to build more elsewhere and I don’t see the logic behind that.

“Ambulances need a base to come back to so I can’t see the point of these plans. It just seems as if they are moving money around.”

The ambulance service’s plan is designed to turn the region’s under-performing ambulance service into the best in the country.

East Midlands Ambulance Service is set to ditch its current model of 65 stations and replace it with a fewer number of hubs supported by smaller stations and mobile standby sites.

Although a report recommending the changes has not yet been compiled, it is thought there will be between 10 and 14 hubs where paramedics will sign in for their shifts.

The ambulance crews will then operate from a selection of existing stations, shared agency bases and deployment points.

A paramedic based in Kettering, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “People often think the closure of ambulance stations will mean ambulance response times will get longer – but that’s not really the case.

“Gone are the days when you would sit and wait at the ambulance station for a call. We are always out and about in the vehicle and react to calls wherever we are. The only time I go back to the station is to fill up on supplies or get some lunch.

“The closure of stations will have a huge effect on staff morale, though. Staff always like to feel they belong to a station and the town which goes with it.”

Bipin Karsandas, partner at The Paper Shop, in New Post Office Square, Corby, said the family recently had to call an ambulance for his mother in Oakley Vale, who has since passed away.

He said: “It would be cutting costs at the expense of lives. We need a service that’s local, not someone coming from Newark or wherever. When someone is having a heart attack, the last thing you want is someone coming from miles away. It is not the kind of service you can wait for.”

David McInnes, of Westminster Walk, Corby, is also worried by the plans.

His father had a stroke while driving. The police were the first on the scene and an officer noticed he had had a stroke so called for an ambulance.

But 25 minutes later the ambulance had not arrived so the officer drove the man to hospital himself.

Mr McInnes said: “We were disgusted with the service we received and these plans are quite worrying.

“We won’t know what the set up is going to be until all the facts are released but it doesn’t sound good.

“Our ambulance service is one of the worst in the country for response times so hopefully this will help.”

The proposal will be unveiled in full in July before being put out for public consultation.