People should have been consulted on changes

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We are not in the least surprised that the plan by the South Central Ambulance Service to radically change its coverage of south-east Hampshire has been met by howls of anger.

What else could bosses have expected from the moment they decided they didn’t need to consult anyone about the plans?

Now they have words such as ‘disgrace’ ringing in their ears as they try to garner public support for a wide-ranging – and very sensitive – change in operational set-up.

It’s a pretty big deal to announce that stations at Gosport, Fareham, Havant and the Eastern Road in Portsmouth will all be shut in favour of a new ‘super base’ at the northern end of Portsea Island.

But the anger from senior councillors is not so much because it is a big deal, but rather because it is being presented as a done deal.

Gosport Borough Council’s health spokesman, Councillor Peter Edgar, is entirely right when he says there should be a public consultation exercise to put the public’s minds at rest.

Ambulance service managers say they have made their plans known to local councils over the years and so they do not see any requirement for a formal public consultation.

Well we do, and we suspect the majority of the public will agree. We include in that number the thousands of people who each year need ambulance transport in a moment of need. They are not just patients, but paying customers, given that our taxes go to pay for the service. Why don’t they deserve a say in a major reorganisation?

We note the statistic that shows more than four-fifths of ambulance deployments do not start from a station anyway, and maybe this will be of solace, particularly to residents of Gosport, who feel all too keenly the continued congestion on the A32 and the loss of the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar.

But we don’t know that the new arrangement will work for the best and people deserve to have a say.

It’s not the first time the health service has fallen short when it comes to public consultation. We suspect the South Central Ambulance Service has taken one step back even before it seeks to step two paces forward in ‘selling’ the plan to the public.