HIGH Peak residents will get a second chance to have their say on controversial plans to close the area’s two ambulance stations – but not until the decision has been made.
East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) are currently consulting on their Being the Best Review, which, if approved, would see ambulance stations in Buxton and New Mills replaced with community ambulance posts and hubs. High Peak ambulance crews would then have to travel to junction 29 of the M1 – the other side of Chesterfield – to pick up and drop off ambulances at the start and end of each shift.
EMAS Chief Executive Phil Milligan has repeatedly admitted that he is expecting to make some changes to the proposals before they are agreed by the trust board in January - but that residents will not be able to take part in a second round of consultation on the revised plans.
However, at a consultation meeting held in New Mills on Friday night, Mr Milligan agreed that there will be another meeting in the High Peak – but not until after the board’s decision has been made.
In a statement to the Advertiser, Mr Milligan said: “I did give a commitment to a meeting in High Peaks to explain our proposals and to receive feedback on them, given that the implementation will be two to three years and that we will have the opportunity for some finessing.
“However, I did not state that this would be before the board receives the recommendations – indeed this is highly unlikely.”
High Peak MP Andrew Bingham, who has been a long-standing opponent of the plans, said: “We deserve a better service from EMAS than we are getting and these proposals won’t allow it.
“If they don’t change (the plans) to benefit the High Peak, they will certainly have a fight on their hands from me and from my local constituents.
“The Peak District National Park is the second most visited national park in the world. In summer the population of the area increases dramatically through tourism. These people are going to be exposed without any ambulance back up. As residents we are very concerned but what about the walkers, hikers and visitors to the various festivals?
“Ambulances are the only lifeline we have in a medical emergency to get us from our homes to hospital because the hospitals are far away.
“That is something the computer model doesn’t take into account. These proposals might look good on computer but they don’t look good in real life.”
Buxton man Chris Hallam, who was left severely injured when he was hit by a car on St John’s Road in December 2011, may not have been alive today if the town didn’t have its own ambulance station. He is keen to ensure that the High Peak retains its ambulance cover and has been campaigning against the cuts.
Responding to Mr Milligan’s statement, Chris said: “It’s a bit of sham really. The idea of a public consultation is to talk to interested parties. They say they have talked to staff but I don’t think any of the staff they are talking to are from the Buxton or New Mills areas because I’m sure none of them would agree to this because of distance and geography and things like that.
“If they could amend the proposals by January 10 and then have a new consultation, it could still be put forward to the board by January 28. That would give them time to amend the proposals and organise at least one public meeting in the High Peak.
“It’s a bit of a hollow promise because he’s going to put the proposals to the board before talking to us about it.”
lA well-attended public meeting at New Mills Town Hall on Friday evening left Phil Milligan Chief Executive of the East Midlands Ambulance Service in no doubt that residents throughout the area viewed with great concern the proposals for the re-organisation of the service.
The meeting was chaired by High Peak Borough Councillor Lance Dowson of New Mills (see photo above), and was split into four sections: geography, response times, staffing aspects issues and a general round-up.
Numerous questions were posed by those attending to which Mr Milligan responded. One member of the public suggested that a hub could be based at the new Buxton Fire Station, using the premises as a shared facility.
To conclude the meeting, High Peak Andrew Bingham expressed his continued concern at the proposals.