Ambulance station closures will make way for bigger hub

TO BE SHUT Portsmouth station on Eastern Road and, inset,  Gosport station in Privett Road.
TO BE SHUT Portsmouth station on Eastern Road and, inset, Gosport station in Privett Road.

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A DECISION to close four ambulance stations to make way for a central hub – without consulting the public – has been criticised by council leaders.

Stations at Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport and Fareham will all shut under plans by the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS).

TO BE SHUT Gosport station in Privett Road.

TO BE SHUT Gosport station in Privett Road.

Instead, staff will start their shifts at a new location still to be decided near the top of Portsea Island.

Paramedics will then move to ‘standby points’ in their areas from where they will respond to 999 calls.

SCAS say patients will not see a difference in emergency cover.

But councillors are angry they were not told about the plans. And there are also concerns about response times, with paramedics starting work miles away from the patches they cover.

Fareham Borough Council leader Sean Woodward said: ‘It would have been nice to have been consulted about it. People will be worried about this until we get to the bottom of exactly what is being proposed.

‘While it will mean no time taken to get to Portchester, clearly you can’t get from somewhere like Hilsea to Sarisbury in the same time. I would want to know what a standby point is and where they are going to be.’

Gosport Borough Council’s health spokesman Cllr Peter Edgar said there should be a consultation exercise to put the public’s minds at rest.

He said: ‘It’s an absolute disgrace they haven’t gone to the public about it. This is a significant change and they should have gone to the public and health scrutiny committees.

‘There are questions that need to be answered and could only be answered in a consultation.’

The decision was made by the SCAS trust board at a meeting at its headquarters in Bicester, Oxfordshire.

It agreed to set aside up to £1.8m to fit out the new ambulance hub. A unit at Northarbour Road in Cosham, has been identified but a deal has not yet been reached.

Head of operations at SCAS Neil Cook said: ‘Because we’re not changing the service there is not a need for us to negotiate with the public. We have brought this to all our councils over the years.

‘If you ring 999 you will get an ambulance or a car the same way you do now.’

He said shifts will overlap to make sure there is coverage in each area at all times.

Mr Cook said in around 84 per cent of call-outs, ambulances are sent from mobile locations, adding: ‘Very few go from base and those that do are usually at the start of a shift or on a meal break. We have got a good ambulance service and I want to improve that.

‘It’s going to be good for staff and good for patients and I’m hopeful that if anything they will see an improvement.’

Plan will see new standby points for paramedics

THREE of the stations in Portsmouth, Gosport and Fareham will be disposed of while South Central Ambulance Service will surrender the lease on its Havant base.

The ambulance service (SCAS) will then set up a number of formal standby points in each area to give staff access to facilities they need.

These will be strategically placed throughout each area, with the idea being that ambulances are in easy reach of the entire patch.

Many of the ambulance stations that are set to close are no longer fit for purpose.

In Gosport, ambulances are unable to fit inside the station because they are too tall.

And the Portsmouth station in Eastern Road is more than 50 years old.

Being based on the often congested Eastern Road also presents problems with access to the city.

SCAS says a central hub would make it easier for vehicle maintenance, staff training and accessibility to all the areas in south-east Hampshire.

Any changes are not expected to begin for another 12 to 18 months.