Ambulances face delays of up to six minutes when a major resort bridge closes for roadworks – and will be forced to use the traffic-jammed Prom instead.
The unavoidable closure of Crossley’s Bridge while it is demolished and rebuilt has sparked ‘significant concern’ about the impact on patients, with fears response times could almost double in the most serious of emergencies.
Bosses at the North West Ambulance Service have been meeting with town hall officials, and have now pleaded for people to only call 999 in life-threatening situations.
“We do understand the bridge needs to be repaired but as this is on the main arterial road through Blackpool, and due to its close proximity to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, ambulances will have to take alternative routes,” a spokesman said.
“This will likely add an extra three to six minutes onto journeys and there will be additional traffic for crews to make their way through.
“If you call 999 we will be with you as soon as we can, but do urge the public to only ring for life-threatening or potentially life-threatening cases, and help us to keep ambulances free for those in urgent need.”
In June, The Gazette revealed how Crossley’s Bridge, formally known as Plymouth Road bridge and which crosses the railway lines close to Layton train station, needs to be replaced at a cost of £6.1m because it is rotting.
Since then, workmen have built a temporary bridge for pedestrians and moving utility pipes and cables, and will close the road to traffic once the Illuminations end in November.
The bridge will then be demolished and rebuilt, while work on the railway line will be carried out at the same time.
It will then reopen by Easter if we have mild winter weather, the council said.
Until then, ambulances heading between the Victoria Hospital and Bispham, Cleveleys, and Fleetwood will instead use Devonshire Road and the Promenade, or go through Carleton.
As well as the risk to patients, any delay could see financial penalties handed down by the government if targets based on response times aren’t hit.
Paramedics are expected to reach patients given ‘red one’ status – when they are not breathing or their heart has stopped – within eight minutes 75 per cent of the time.
So far this year, just 73.4 per cent of red one calls were reached in time, already putting a quarter of the government’s Quality Premium payment, paid out for hitting key targets, at risk.
It comes just months after local health bosses successfully pleaded for lenience from NHS England after the red one target was missed by 0.17 per cent last year, sparking fears £7.5m funding would be lost.
Members of Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)’s board were told the target was missed by 50 cases, and would have been hit if calls answered by the fire service in Greater Manchester, which attends cardiac arrest cases, had been counted in the figures.
Deputy council leader, Gillian Campbell, said: “We have been liaising with all emergency services ahead of the closure of Plymouth Road bridge, and worked with them to create diversions and alternative emergency routes.
“While we appreciate closing such a busy route will cause congestion for drivers in the short term, if this repair wasn’t done then the bridge would have to shut in the immediate future, meaning these alternative routes for traffic and emergency services would become a permanent problem.
“Carrying the work out over the winter season will reduce the level of congestion on the diversion routes compared to if this work had been done in the summer, while tying in with Network Rail’s electrification of the train line means that all the work needed to take place to the bridge will take happen in one go, rather than having several closures.”