Concerns raised at Solihull Council over axe for town's ambulance hub - The Solihull Observer

Concerns raised at Solihull Council over axe for town's ambulance hub

Solihull Editorial 8th Jan, 2020 Updated: 8th Jan, 2020   0

CONCERNS have been raised at Solihull Council about the closure of the ambulance hub at Solihull Hospital.

As revealed by the Solihull Observer on December 23, West Midlands Ambulance Service will close the Solihull Ambulance Station based at Solihull Hospital by March 2020.

Yesterday (Tuesday, January 7) WMAS announced additional paramedics and ambulances will be made available to the borough over the coming weeks. These will be funded by money saved by closing the base at Solihull Hospital which currently hosts three ambulances, it said.

In 2019, the Trust responded to 32,522 cases in the Solihull area, yet only 13.6 per cent of those cases were attended by the three ambulances based in the town; the other 86.3 per cent were ambulances based at other sites such as Erdington Hub, but also others such as Coventry, Lichfield and Hollymoor.

Trust chief executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “Buildings don’t save lives; ambulance staff and vehicles do.

“The Trust does not get value for money from the Solihull facility as it is empty most of the time. We will therefore invest all of the savings from closing Solihull into frontline services. The borough will benefit from an increased number of staff and ambulances as a result of the change.”

But Nick Stephens, the chair of Solihull and Meriden Labour Party, who stood as the Labour Party election candidate for Solihull, has hit out that the decision to close the station was taken without any consultation.

He raised questions about the planned closure at last night’s meeting of Solihull Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Board.

He says that when he asked if the council was advised or consulted on this decision, the answer was ‘No’.

Mr Stephens has since called for the Scrutiny Board to look into this situation “as a matter of urgency to investigate the effect this closure will have on residents of the borough”.

He said: “I was assured that the council will make a request for a full report on this planned closure and ask members from West Midlands Ambulance Service to appear before the board in the near future to be questioned by councillors.

“I am pleased with this response, and it was clear that all parties are very concerned that this decision was taken without any consultation and could have very serious consequences for Solihull residents.

“Minutes could be vital in an emergency situation and if ambulances are having to travel much further to reach those in need of urgent help, lives could be at risk.

“The council has an important scrutiny role in holding those delivering our health services to account, and I hope that if the board are not satisfied with the answers they are given they will call on West Midlands Ambulance Service to look again at this decision.

“If the announcement of the closure was delayed because of the recent general election because it was ‘politically sensitive’ that is a disgraceful situation.”

Trust chief executive, Mr Marsh, added: “Where an ambulance starts or finishes it’s shift really doesn’t matter; what matters is whether we are able to respond to patients in a timely manner. We are confident that the change will bring real benefits to patients.

“As a service we will always send the nearest available ambulance to each case. Once the Solihull ambulances transport a patient to A&E, most commonly at Heartlands Hospital, they will be tasked to the next case, even if that is not in Solihull. In the meantime, other ambulances will cover cases in Solihull. This explains why such a high proportion of incidents in Solihull are not attended by Solihull ambulances.

“I understand why people might initially be concerned by such a change, but ambulances have never been tied to the town. If all three ambulances from the town are with patients and a fourth case came in, as happens regularly, people would rightly expect support from another ambulance. This change simply ensures that that an ambulance will arrive sooner.”

Conservative councillor Karen Grinsell, cabinet member for Adult Social Care & Health and deputy leader of Solihull Council, said: “I had raised concerns with West Midlands Ambulance Service about the announcement to close the community ambulance station at Solihull Hospital and I am pleased that they have clarified their proposals for the service’s operating model.

“It is a well-respected service and one which we want to ensure provides the greatest benefit to residents. We need them to continually invest in their frontline services to maintain the ‘outstanding’ rated performance they have achieved and the high quality standards which residents expect.

“If utilising a central hub for ambulances to operate from will provide a better service for Solihull residents then that can only be a good thing.

“I look forward to liaising further with colleagues at West Midlands Ambulance Service and monitoring the new arrangements once they are implemented.”

As we have reported, the issue has been highlighted by the Liberal Democrat councillor Ade Adeyemo, The party’s petition against the ambulance hub’s closure was signed by 1,100 people.



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