‘Lives to be put at risk by town station closure’

East Midlands Ambulance Service is undergoing a shake-up in a bid to improve response times
East Midlands Ambulance Service is undergoing a shake-up in a bid to improve response times

Paramedics concerned for local people’s safety are fighting to save Market Rasen ambulance station from closure, the Rasen Mail can reveal.

East Midlands Ambulance Service wants to close its Market Rasen station early in the new year and move all staff to Gainsborough - more than 20 miles away.

But Rasen Mail sources say all 10 ambulance staff based in Market Rasen fear this will put lives at risk.

It is understood they have arranged emergency meetings with unions and are due to meet with EMAS bosses next month.

Our source, who has links with EMAS, said: “Obviously they (local ambulance staff) think this is a concern for the people of Market Rasen and they are trying to fight it.

“They’ve done some very good work in Market Rasen over the years and there are people who wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the local ambulance station.

“An ambulance will spend most of its time elsewhere and there won’t be cover in Market Rasen. There’s a very strong LIVES group in Market Rasen and EMAS will rely on them.

“They’re audited on response times - sometimes LIVES can’t do a great deal, but if they get there in time EMAS gets a star for that.

“EMAS doesn’t really care about the quality of the response, it’s more about the timing of the response.”

In a letter to staff, EMAS compared the plans to a situation in Nottingham where a station closed and paramedics were moved just two miles away.

EMAS, which is describing the closures as ‘twinnings’, believes the changes will improve response times to emergency 999 calls.

The controversial plan, called the Being the Best change programme, was drawn up to address shocking response times which left EMAS as the worst performing ambulance service in the country in 2012.

Earlier this year health minister Jeremy Hunt referred EMAS to a government advisory board to be scrutinised. This came about after EMAS was handed multi-million pound fines for poor response times three years in a row. Despite the controversy EMAS has defended its plans and said Market Rasen would not close until there was a ‘community ambulance station’ in place - but this is only somewhere crews can stop for a rest and a meal break.

An EMAS spokesman said: “We are now reviewing the timescales and discussions are well underway with regard to the introduction of a CAS (community ambulance station) in Market Rasen.

“The aim of Being the Best is to provide a better service for patients by improving clinical standards and performance, and providing better facilities, communications, engagement and support for frontline colleagues.

“The changes to our estate (bricks and mortar) will allow us to achieve this and provide strategically located premises to improve our operational performance.”

“As we make the changes detailed in our plans we will continue to respond to local 999 calls as we do now by getting an ambulance resource to the patient as quickly as possible.”