Keeping a vital service on road

THE High Peak’s two ambulance stations could be closed under radical plans announced by the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).

The trust wants to replace its current 65 ambulance stations with between ten and 15 “hubs” which have better facilities.

No decisions have yet been made on which stations will close under the plans, but the ambulance stations at Buxton and New Mills are being reviewed.

EMAS Chief Executive Phil Milligan said: “Many people think that we respond to 999 calls from our ambulance stations, but for the last ten years or so we have seen a significant increase in the number of emergency calls we receive and this has resulted in most being responded to by ambulance crews already out on the road. For the majority of the day our stations are empty.

“We are looking at having fewer ambulance stations but there will be better facilities at each so we can be sure that each ambulance is clean, well maintained and fully stocked at the beginning of each shift.

“With 65 stations currently and centralised stores and vehicle workshops, we have not always been able to ensure that clean, well maintained and fully stocked ambulances are always available.

“A hub would be a larger station with additional resources such as education facilities; a spoke would be a small station; and a tactical deployment point might be a portable cabin or existing community facility.

“This will give us a smaller and sustainable estate where location is determined by optimal response times within our challenging geography.

“Equally, a hub is where clinical staff will be able to meet with a team leader at the beginning and end of their shift to catch up on news and to discuss issues that have arisen during the day. I want the hubs to help to generate ‘team spirit’,” said Mr Milligan.

“In addition, our clinicians need to have high quality equipment available and vehicles that they can rely on to get them to a patient as quickly as possible.”

The strategy has to reflect the impact of the recent loss of Patient Transport Service contracts, which in December saw the Trust lose valuable income earned by ferrying non-emergency patients.

Documents seen by the Advertiser reveal that to bring the Trust’s buildings up to standards would cost £13 million.

The documents add: “Other than the new trust headquarters and HART (Hazardous Area Response Team) facility, the existing premises, most of which are ambulance stations, are of variable quality, very dated with components reaching or beyond their design life, in poor physical condition with substantial backlog maintenance requirements.”

The location and design of the hubs are still being developed but it is likely that hubs will offer vehicle parking and be a staff base with welfare facilities, officer/administration space, facilities for team briefings, divisional HQ, storage/logistics space, make ready/deep cleaning facilities, training and a vehicle maintenance facility.

The plans are still being developed and next steps for the trust now include:

l finalising the optimal number and location of hubs, spokes and tactical deployment points

l developing the optimal design for hubs and spokes

l developing a model for “other” operational estate such as head office and support services requirements and call centres.

l establishing a programme of change to move from the existing estate configuration to the desired model.