THE WEST Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has confirmed that its Chief Executive will be attending a town council meeting this month amid concerns that a town’s community response post was to shut by the end of March. Then, last month, a spokesperson for WMAS confirmed to the Times and Echo that its rapid response vehicle had been taken out of Cheadle from its post in Ashbourne Road on Sunday, January 26. The news has caused much concern within the community of Cheadle with a public meeting being held and to petitions being started.
A spokesperson for WMAS has now confirmed that the service’s Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, will be attending the next Cheadle Town Council meeting on Monday, February 17 to discuss the decision with councillors.
Meanwhile, a ‘briefing paper’ written by WMAS surrounding the decision, has been sent to stakeholder authorities and has also been circulated on social media.
The document revealed figures recorded by WMAS in regards to response time, the number of incidents in the Cheadle town area and the number of WMAS emergency response vehicles.
The mean target for the service to get to a Category One incident, it stated, was seven minutes.
The current performance in Cheadle, averagely, is eight minutes and six seconds while for the whole of the West Midlands region this is six minutes 54 seconds.
The document said that over the last year there were 2,257 incidents within the town area of Cheadle, of which 41.4 per cent were responded to from within Cheadle itself (meaning 58.6 per cent of cases were attended by ambulances).
The briefing paper author said: “This demonstrates that the assertion that lives will be lost if the vehicle is not in Cheadle simply cannot be true.”
The paper also stated: “The Trust Board has been very clear that it wishes to maximise the resources available for patients while minimising the amount of money spent on other items.
“As a result, we have been closing community ambulance stations where they are simply not value for money, investing the money saved into additional paramedics and ambulances.
“To date we have shut 102 community ambulance stations and response posts, with no negative impact on our performance.
“The trust is now sufficiently busy that ambulances, once they leave the hub at the start of their shift, will only return for a meal break, go out again for the second half of their shift and then only return at the end of the shift.
“It therefore makes no sense to plough money into buildings that are rarely, if ever, used other than at the beginning or end of shifts.
“(It is) much better to save that money and increase the number of paramedics and ambulances.”
The briefing paper author went on to state that “there is also the misconception that because the ambulance will start and finish its shift at Stoke that is where it will have to come from in the case of an emergency in, for example, Cheadle.
“The reality is that ambulances are out and about in the community responding to incidents.
“The closest available ambulance will continue to always be sent.
“The trust will base 4×4 ambulances in both Biddulph and Leek, with a third at Stoke that can be used to ensure that a 4×4 capability is always available.
“Where a vehicle starts or finishes its shift really doesn’t matter; what matters is whether we are able to respond to patients in a timely manner.
“Whilst this change means the rapid response car will not start or finish its shift in Cheadle, that does not mean that the level of provision will be reduced.
“In fact, by increasing the number of ambulances available, we will provide a better service to patients and ensure those that need to get to hospital do so more quickly than they do currently, meaning a better service for the people of Cheadle.”
The briefing paper also suggests that that trust has listened to the comments of local people who have raised concerns that lives could be lost in the case of say a cardiac arrest.
It continued: “In reality, we know from the figures that currently there is no certainty that the Cheadle car will be available in the area.
“Even if it were, the one thing that will save more lives than any number of ambulances or cars is members of the public learning CPR and an increase in the number of defibrillators in the town.
“Even if we arrive in all (Category One and Two) cases in seven minutes, that is arguably six minutes too late.
“In a cardiac arrest, the patient is clinically dead. The only thing that will save them is early CPR and defibrillation.
“For every minute after the heart stops beating and no-one is doing CPR, the chance of survival drops by ten per cent.”
The briefing paper concluded with the statement: “The trust does not get value for money from the Cheadle facility as it is empty most of the time – buildings don’t save lives; ambulance staff and vehicles do.
“We will therefore invest all of the savings from closing Cheadle into frontline services.
“The town will benefit from an increase in ambulance provision as a result of the change.”
Reacting to the briefing paper, MP Sir Bill Cash, who was sent a copy of the document, told the Times and Echo: “I remain extremely concerned about the removal of first responders from Cheadle and I am continuing to pursue this matter on behalf of my constituents.”
Councillor Elizabeth Whitehouse, who has been fronting a campaign to save the community response post on behalf of Cheadle Town Council, said: “As a town council we have pushed as much as we can but it unfortunately looks like it might not be enough.
“I’ve heard it is coming into the health scrutiny panel at Staffordshire Moorlands District Council soon so I’m hopeful something can be done there.
“I’ve been in contact with the CCG who have said it isn’t a change in service so it seems we are not in agreement there.
“As a town council, we have done all we can and pushed all the buttons as it were.
“We’ve just got to keep the pressure on now.”
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