MP fears patients could be put at risk if 10 Suffolk ambulance stations close
- Credit: Archant
Patients could be put at risk if 10 of Suffolk's 12 ambulance stations are closed as part of service-wide efficiency proposals, an MP has warned.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey says the planned changes may damage the recent improvements to ambulance response times in rural areas.
Dr Coffey wrote to the chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) to say she is 'highly concerned' about the remodelling of the estate, which she says will leave parts of Suffolk with no stationed ambulances.
EEAST insists the proposals, which were agreed earlier this year, are not about closures.
They will see the introduction of a 'hub and spoke' model, to enable a 'high performing estate'. The 18 'hubs' across the region, including in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Colchester, will be where management are based, vehicles repaired and all staff report to at the start of shifts.
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Staff in emergency vehicles will then 'feed' into the spokes – community ambulance stations (CASTs) – from which they will be despatched to calls. CASTs will include staff accommodation and parking for at least one ambulance. However, their locations are yet to be decided.
Meanwhile, EEAST's 69 existing stations outside hub locations, face closure. EEAST said it spent more on its estate proportionally than any other trust in the country and many of its buildings were old and inefficient.
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Suffolk stations include Beccles, Felixstowe, Martlesham, Woodbridge, Sudbury, Haverhill, Saxmundham, Newmarket, Stowmarket and Mildenhall.
Dr Coffey said: 'I'm highly concerned to hear more reports of the super hub proposal going ahead, which would leave no ambulances stationed here in east Suffolk at all. I'm worried that the considerable progress the ambulance trust has made in getting people in rural areas the appropriate medical care on time will be put at risk.'
Over recent years EEAST has missed many key performance targets, with response times consistently worse than national averages. Latest results, however, have shown an improvement.
Dr Coffey said she would invite ambulance bosses to Westminster 'so we can quiz them'.
Suffolk clinical commissioning groups said it was important EEAST 'continues to adapt' and it would work with the service.
EEAST said it was planning to invest £42m over five years to bring its estates 'into the 21st century' with better facilities for staff and greater cost efficiency.
'This is not a closure programme and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect,' a spokesman added.
The spokesman said the hubs in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Colchester, with a network or community ambulance stations, would 'meet service delivery and response targets'.
'This is about making the most of our estate and working with partners to share more facilities and buildings to help increase our presence in the local community, especially in rural areas,' the spokesman said. 'The existing estate does not support the requirements of a modern ambulance service. We will be working closely with our staff to make sure that future developments deliver the same effective results that we have been seeing to date.'