Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP Raises Concerns over the Future of Ambulance Services in Cirencester

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Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP has received concerned emails from constituents including an unnamed employee of the local Ambulance Service.

The email states the worries of local residents:

“The reason for my e-mail is to raise my considerable concerns about reduction in Paramedic Ambulance cover throughout the Cotswolds, proposed for 1st June 2013. At present, Cirencester provides two Paramedic vehicles, one 24 hour vehicle and one 12 hour vehicle which operates from 08.00hrs to 20.00hrs seven days a week. There is also a 24hr Emergency Care Practitioner car operating seven days a week. Following the merger with South West Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) we have been told that we are to lose the 12 hour Paramedic vehicle, resulting in the loss of three of the eight Paramedics stationed at Cirencester.

In 2007 I remember only too well the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Rebecca Wedd outside the Royal Agricultural College when she had to wait 43 minutes for an Ambulance. The criticism that our crews received after that event has stayed with me. I know that you were heavily involved in the follow up to this tragic event which resulted in the deployment of a second Paramedic vehicle at Cirencester, the very vehicle that is now being taken away. I am very concerned that an effective 33% reduction in Paramedic cover will result in another tragedy occurring.

It is important that I let you know that the Cirencester Paramedic vehicle will be replaced by a low grade ‘Patient Support Vehicle’ (PSV) manned by Emergent Care Assistants, non Clinical members of staff trained in basic First Aid. The vehicle will have it’s blue lights and sirens removed and will NOT be sent to emergency calls. It will also have equipment and drugs removed and will be used to transport low grade patients. Unfortunately, Cirencester is not the only Paramedic vehicle being replaced with a PSV. Stroud and Swindon are both having there Paramedic cover reduced by removing vehicles. I have mentioned Swindon because following the SWASFT merger, Swindon is to be part of the Cotswold division as well as Stroud and Moreton in Marsh. Experience tells me that being merged with a large Town like Swindon will result in the Paramedic cover in Cirencester, Bourton, Stow and Moreton suffering because the Paramedic vehicles will be pulled in to cover the larger Town, i.e. Swindon.”

The Cotswolds MP has been in contact with Ken Wenman, the Chief Executive of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWAST) raising these points with him. The response received was secretive and unhelpful:

“In response to your email, I can confirm that staff side negotiations are currently taking place reviewing the provision of services of several stations within the former GWAS area including Cirencester. At the outset, may I reassure you, this is about improving patient services by ensuring paramedics are better able to respond to 999 emergencies. Nevertheless, you will appreciate that the trust has to make on going cost improvements and, in the case of the former GWAS area, this amounts to £4.3 million in the next financial year.

The introduction of this new tier of service does not in any way relate to the recent merger with South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWAST) and was planned and agreed by the GWAS Board many months before.

Since the introduction last July of the new call connect response time targets, the ambulance services in England have been afforded the opportunity to fully review the demand patterns versus current resources. In the case of Cirencester, it has been found that the current day 12 hour vehicle spends 64% of its total time completing low acuity work. This work would be better served by a dedicated vehicle manned by Emergency Care Assistants (ECAs) affording a better service to GPs and releasing the paramedic ambulance to attend 999 calls. This, in turn, will support the trust’s essential cost improvement programme and we are planning the introduction of other Patient Support Vehicles (PSVs) saving the trust approximately £350,000 p.a.

The introduction of this new urgent care vehicle has been introduced by filling current vacancies without the need to reduce paramedic staff within the trust.

With regard to the 2007 incident, I am led to believe that the delay was attributed to communication difficulties between the then county based control rooms. This has been partially resolved with the centralisation of all 999 call taking in Bristol and the standardisation of control room procedures throughout the former GWAS area.

The new PSV vehicles will still have the facility of blue lights albeit they will not be used routinely on emergency calls as these vehicles will, in the main, be predominantly engaged in providing a service for those patients who have been previously clinically assessed by either a doctor, paramedic, nurse or our clinical hub. This will, in turn, release the pressure off the frontline paramedic crews to be more available to respond to 999 calls.

I can confirm that the Swindon area is being moved into the dispatch area of Gloucestershire. This move, you will be pleased to hear, has brought about an increase in employment at our control room in Gloucester. I do not agree that this will change the deployment of vehicles given that Swindon has one of the highest response time performance figures in the trust, currently over 90% for category A calls. In fact, I expect the reverse to happen with Swindon vehicles responding to more rural incidents.

I hope the above covers the concerns raised.”

Mr Clifton-Brown speaking today said:

“I have had a long campaign against ambulance service mergers, warning that patients lives could be put at risk. Sadly this prophecy became true after Gloucestershire Ambulance Service was merged with Gloucester, Wiltshire and Avon Ambulance Service (GWAS) in the now notorious Wedd case.

“I was totally opposed to the merger of the local Ambulance Trust with the South Western Ambulance Service Trust to become the service covering the largest geographical area in the country.

“Sadly this potentially disastrous cut in services in Cirencester looks like a dreadful repeat of what happened when the GWAS merger occurred.

“Since I have had so little satisfaction from Mr Wenman of the newly merged trust, I intend to raise this with Ministers. I am not prepared to sit by and watch constituents’ lives being put at risk by inept Ambulance Service management,” concluded the Cotswolds MP.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP has been contacted by the South Western Ambulance Service requesting a meeting. He awaits their discussions in the next few days.

Source: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP Member of Parliament for The Cotswolds

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