‘People could die’ warning as ambulance cuts start to bite

North west Ambulance vehicles at Blackpool ambulance station
North west Ambulance vehicles at Blackpool ambulance station
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People could die as a result of plans to cut one ambulance serving Blackpool for four nights of the week.

That’s the claim being made today by Unison’s North West head of Health, Paul Foley, in response to the region’s ambulance service’s proposals to axe an emergency ambulance from 10pm to 6am Thursday to Sunday.

The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) needs to make £14m of cuts, £6m of which must come from its emergency services and £1m must come from patient transport services.

Mr Foley said: “A lot of people travel into Blackpool at the weekends, and unfortunately there are incidents around the time that pubs and clubs close. We are really concerned that the service to people in Blackpool will be significantly reduced.

“People will have to wait longer for ambulances in which time conditions could be made worse.

“Talking on the phone to assess whether an ambulance is needed could take more time, and if you don’t have the vehicles that’s further delay.

“This unnecessary risk could lead to a serious impact to people’s conditions in emergency situations and people could die as a result of this.”

As well as Blackpool’s loss, Fylde’s Urgent Care vehicles could be replaced with Intermediate Tier vehicles, which are not staffed by paramedics and cannot respond to emergency calls.

Bury, Bolton, Wigan, Carlisle and Penrith stand to lose an ambulance every night under the plans, several towns across the North West could lose a vehicle each day, and Blackburn, Leyland, Accrington and Nelson could lose two vehicles every day.

A spokesman for NWAS said it was unable to say how many ambulances would be left in Blackpool at any one time as vehicles from Fleetwood and Lytham often responded to emergency incidents in the town.

Already two NWAS executives have been made redundant.

Derek Cartwright, director of operations for the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, (pictured right) said: “For some time we have been looking at our service to ensure that emergency vehicles are sent to patients who need them, and those who don’t are offered the most appropriate care.

“Patient care is always our primary focus and we would always ensure that the public still has access to the care it needs, whether that is via an emergency ambulance or redirection to other healthcare services.”

Mr Cartwright said the service had invested around £500,000 in providing “more appropriate” responses to non-life-threatening emergencies.

He said life threatening calls accounted for nearly 40 per cent of all 999 calls in the North West, and 20 per cent of patients were not taken to hospital.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden says he is concerned that the North West Ambulance Service is removing a vehicle during the town’s busiest nights of the week.

Repositioning the NWAS proposals, Mr Marsden said: “Taking off an emergency ambulance over the weekend period, which is often a critical one for the hospital as we know, does not seem like the best start.

“I am seriously concerned about the lack of information so far on just exactly what impact this is going to have on people specifically in Blackpool and I have to say that this has been very poorly communicated.

“I have asked for a more detailed statement.”