A LEADING emergency service chief has vowed that he has “made the right decision” in removing a community response post in a Moorlands town. Professor Anthony Marsh, who is the chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service, made the statement at the Cheadle Town Council meeting on Monday (February 17), which he had been invited to following concerns from the community with regards to the removal of Cheadle's community response post in Ashbourne Road. Last month, a spokesman for West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) confirmed that its rapid response vehicle had been taken out of Cheadle on January 26. They also stated that Cheadle's community response post in Ashbourne Road will shut by the end of March but that the trust will replace the rapid response vehicle with a “double crewed ambulance”.
On Monday, members of the public, along with town councillors, aired their views about the removal of the post and quizzed Mr Marsh about the service’s decision.
Some quizzed the statistics which had been used to come up with the decision and many aired that they felt that Cheadle was being “left out”.
Councillor Elizabeth Whitehouse told Mr Marsh that she was concerned that there had been no consultation over the closure of the post and that there had been “no thought for residents” in making the decision.
She also revealed that two petitions had together collated almost 5,000 signatures from people against the closure of the post.
She added: “How the hell can that many people be wrong? How many people will die before you realise that this is a mistake?”
In his response Mr Marsh said: “Of course we have considered all the patients, and that is exactly why I have put this forward.
“I would not put forward something which is detriment to the patients – this is overall the right thing to do.”
Mr Marsh explained that by shutting the Cheadle post, the savings made would be used on more “frontline” staff such as paramedics.
Councillor Jamie Evans said to Mr Marsh: “Your decision is an absolute disgrace. You are talking about the rent of a building – it’s not going to pay for a paramedic’s wages.”
Mr Marsh said: “While it is not a lot of money that we pay for the Cheadle base, it is money to be spent on frontline staffing.
“The bottom line is that there will be more paramedic ambulances out on the streets.”
Councillors and members of the public also raised concern that a 4×4 ambulance was not being allocated to the Cheadle area – and yet there has been such vehicles allocated to both Leek and Biddulph in the Moorlands. Mr Marsh said: “We have looked at the whole of the Staffordshire Moorlands to minimise cost and maximise the response.
“However we will continue to review, and if there is further potential to invest in more ambulances and paramedics then we will.”
Former paramedic Denise Gilbert raised concerns that with the removal of the Cheadle post the ambulance service may “rely on” the local community first responders; to which Mr Marsh said: “We have no intention of changing our arrangements with the community first responders.”
Councillor Ron Locker, who has very much appreciated the services of the paramedic car for the past 11 years due to his and his wife’s ill health, said to Mr Marsh: “What the hell are you doing trying to mend something which is not broken?
“At the end of the day your service has been absolutely superb.”
Cllr Locker went on to air concerns that Cheadle will be growing in population once planned developments have been built in the area.
In his response Mr Marsh said: “You are right about the increases in houses and that’s why we need to train more paramedics.
“We will continue to review the improvement plan. If you don’t constantly review how to run an organisation then it will go backwards.”
Mr Marsh also said: “Bottom line is that I can only invest in the best way I can to help to reach as many people as we can.
“If we get more money then we can get more people to employ and deploy.
“We will continue to review all the arrangements we have and look to invest to save more lives.”
Towards the end of the debate, Gill Meyrick, who had started a petition against the removal of the community response post with his wife Ann, asked Mr Marsh: “Have we convinced you that you are making the wrong decision?”
Mr Marsh replied: “No you haven’t. This is the right thing to do.”
He added: “If I genuinely did not believe that this is the right thing to do then I would not do it.”
In conclusion Mr Marsh referred to live statistics on Monday evening. He said: “Right now I have 84 emergencies across the region that we can not get to, even though we have more than 300 ambulances out there.
“I need more ambulances to help these patients. Six out of those 84 patients I can’t get to right now are in Staffordshire – but you want me to keep a building open?”
After an hour and a half of debate, members of the public and councillors tried to quiz Mr Marsh further on the decision to close Cheadle’s community response post. However, Cheadle Town Mayor Ian Plant drew the debate to a close stating that if anyone had any further questions, they could forward them to the Cheadle Town Clerk who would then forward them on to Mr Marsh.
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