U-turn over plans to axe town ambulance

Blackpool ambulance station
Blackpool ambulance station
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Plans to axe one ambulance serving Blackpool for four nights of the week have been shelved.

The North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust announced in May that Blackpool could lose one ambulance, from 10pm to 6am Thursday to Sunday.

It was part of a £14m wave of cost-cutting proposals, which also including axing ambulances across the North West, and replacing Fylde’s Urgent Care vehicles with Intermediate Tier vehicles, which are not staffed by paramedics and cannot respond to emergency calls.

But yesterday it announced funding had been secured which would retain the vehicles at least until March.

However, trust bosses have not revealed the amount of funding it had been given.

Finance director Alan Stuttard said: “The trust has received some additional funding from our commissioners, which will enable us to maintain the shifts and resources which we were reviewing through the winter to the end of the financial year.

“However, this money is not permanent, and it is important we continue to look at providing the most appropriate service for patients, and we know this isn’t always an ambulance and trip to the accident and emergency department.”

The news is being hailed a victory for Unison, which launched a petition against losing the vehicles.

It was signed by more than 11,000 people and submitted to Downing Street last week.

North West regional convenor Angela Rayner said: “People have had enough of austerity and of reckless cuts to public services.

“We remain a wealthy country, and it is ridiculous that cuts to life-saving emergency services are even being contemplated. It’s great that people power has been successful and these cuts have been suspended. However, we must remain vigilant as the funding is temporary.”

Mr Stuttard said some money would be invested into schemes which help patients with non-life threatening conditions and pilot community paramedics who can attend patients’ homes.

He added: “This will reduce the need for further vehicle resources and will free up our existing ambulances for life-threatening emergencies.”