SHADOW Health Minister Andrew Gwynne MP has pledged his support to a campaign fighting to save the High Peak’s ambulance stations.
Mr Gwynne has added his signature to a petition, started by Buxton Labour Party, which calls on the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) to maintain a fully operational hub in the High Peak.
It is in response to the trust’s Being the Best Review, which, if agreed, will see ambulance stations at Buxton and New Mills closed and replaced with hubs and tactical deployment points. 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 their ambulance at the start and end of each day.
Mr Gwynne said: “The ambulance service is a vital part of our NHS – and it is essential that ambulances are stationed close to the communities they service. These plans make no sense at all.”
The Labour Group’s Caitlin Bisknell has also criticised the scheme: “I am appalled that these plans have even got this far. It is obvious to anyone who knows anything about the weather conditions or the geography of Buxton and New Mills that these plans pose a grave risk to patient safety.
“I have already heard stories of people whose lives were saved because there was an ambulance in Buxton, and others of people having to wait two hours for an ambulance to arrive from the Wirral – and that’s before these changes have taken place.
“We know that EMAS has one of the worst record for response times and I fail to see how siting the ambulance hub more than an hour’s drive away from High Peak on the other side of Chesterfield can improve response times.
“Our ambulance crews do a great job, they know the area without relying on the often unreliable sat-nav; but they must be allowed to do their job properly and that means being based in High Peak, not on the M1 the other side of Chesterfield.”
Buxton Labour Group will be holding a street stall in Spring Gardens, Buxton on Saturday and their petition is also available to sign online at www.caitlinbisknell.info/emaspetition.
Last week, High Peak MP Andrew Bingham said: “I remain focused on getting people involved with this consultation and to join me in saying these proposals are unacceptable, not just for the residents of Buxton but for the residents of High Peak who rely on East Midlands Ambulance Service.”
Mr Bingham has a meeting with the Chief Executive lined up for the end of November.
He added: “Let’s all get together on this and give me as much material as you can when I go (to the meeting). If I know a lot of people from Buxton, Chapel, Whaley or anywhere in the area have gone to the consultation meetings, it just strengthens my hand at the meeting.”
Buxton man Chris Hallam knows he may not be alive today if the town didn’t have its own ambulance station.
Chris was hit by a car on St John’s Road on December 23 2011, and suffered such severe injuries that he was in a coma for a week.
He is keen to ensure that the High Peak retains its ambulance cover, and is urging locals to get involved in the consultation.
“If the ambulance station had not been there and was not as close to the accident site, it could have been delayed and I could have died,” he said.
“In winter where the station is at the moment, ambulances can always get a patient from Buxton to hospital in Stockport or Macclesfield as the A6 is generally kept open. The road to Chesterfield is not.”
EMAS are currently consulting on the plans and two public consultation meetings are taking place next month.
The first meeting is on Tuesday, November 6 at the Octagon, Pavilion Gardens, Buxton at 6pm.
On Friday, November 16, a meeting is being held in New Mills at the Town Hall at 7pm.
A Facebook group, Save High Peak Ambulance Stations, has been set up and has so far attracted over 2,700 members.
Copies of the consultation document are available online at www.emas.nhs.uk, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0800 917 9911.
The consultation runs until December 17.