High Peak to keep an ambulance station

EMAS Chief Executive Phil Milligan speaks to members of the press at King's Mill Hospital Ambulance Station
EMAS Chief Executive Phil Milligan speaks to members of the press at King's Mill Hospital Ambulance Station

Health bosses have this week approved a controversial shake-up of the region’s ambulance service - and have agreed to retain an ambulance station in the High Peak.

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) trust board members met on Monday to agree their Being the Best programme, which looked at a number of changes to the way the service operates - including how to respond to calls and where ambulance vehicles should be based.

The initial plans, put forward by EMAS last year, would have seen ambulance stations in Buxton and New Mills closed and replaced with a hub at junction 29 of the M1 - the other side of Chesterfield. High Peak ambulance crews would then have had to travel to the hub to collect and drop off their vehicle at the start and end of each shift.

EMAS said the plans would enable them to provide a better response time for patients but local residents and councillors were horrified, as they feared the High Peak would be left without ambulance cover for long periods of time.

A three-month public consultation took place, including meetings in Buxton and New Mills, and petitions protesting against the plans also attracted thousands of signatures.

EMAS then revised their plans, following the consultation, and the new proposals, which will see an ambulance station at an as yet undecided location in the High Peak, alongside community ambulance stations in Buxton, Chapel-en-le-Frith and New Mills, were agreed on Monday.

Across the East Midlands region there will be nine hubs, 19 ambulance stations and 108 community ambulance stations - strategically located deployment points with facilities for staff to take meal breaks and rest.

Speaking about response times during the meeting, EMAS chief executive Phil Milligan said: “EMAS has quite simply struggled with its performance targets for some while, and we have strived to improve but there’s recognition that we need something different.

“They (the community ambulance stations) will provide the right facilities for our staff, including running water, toilets and microwaves.

“The way we operate now is simply not delivering the performance that local people deserve and national government expects.”

He said that by opening the community stations, they will serve patients faster because ambulances are likely to be better positioned and added that similar schemes in the south-west of the country, and in the West Midlands, have already proved successful.

Forming part of a five-year plan, the board will spend the next six months looking how to implement the 108 stations.

But the plans have still come in for criticism, especially from the unions.

Mark Hill, Unison communication officer, was joined by other members to protest outside King’s Mill Ambulance Station after Monday’s board meeting.

He said: “What they are promising is 108 Community Ambulance Stations, but it’s a play on words, they are just standby points.

“We have them already and we don’t have the staff numbers to be there now.

“They are moving staff from night shifts to during the day and shift cover is at breaking point.

“They are robbing Peter to pay Paul.”