The fight against the removal of Biddulph’s ambulance station continued this week, as campaigners demanded access to figures that show the effect of cuts to emergency services.
West Midlands Ambulance Service announced last month that it was considering future plans for 10 of its stations in the region, including in Biddulph and Leek, as only 5% of the calls it receives are responded to by ambulances from local stations.
If Biddulph’s station is lost, it would be the latest reduction in cover by the service following the removal of the town’s rapid response vehicle in favour of dual-crewed ambulances last year.
The town council wants to prove that this has had a negative impact on rural communities in the Moorlands by submitting a Freedom of Information Request to the ambulance service, asking to see data of response times before and after the rapid response vehicle was removed.
It is hoped that by demonstrating the impact the removal of the vehicle has had, they will be able to deter the service from acting on plans to remove the station altogether.
Independent Coun John Jones, a retired paramedic who has worked on a rapid response vehicle in the Moorlands and has previously called its removal “disingenuous”, described the service’s latest plans at a town council meeting on Tuesday (14th).
He told colleagues: “I have watched over the last couple of years with increasing dismay the serious reductions in cover by the ambulance service.
“There are now proposals to remove the ambulance station in Biddulph. I say proposals, but there has been no public consultation on this. As I speak to you tonight, I know that it is a done deal.
“It will mean that if you call 999, an ambulance would probably be coming from Stoke so, if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a life-threatening event, you would probably be dead before anyone gets here. It is about saving money and ticking boxes.
“I am asking you to support me in writing a letter to the ambulance service to yet again protest.”
Coun Jones was one of a number to relay horror stories that were said to have come about as a result of cuts to provision.
“I know of a 90-year-old woman in Biddulph Moor that was distraught when she rang me because she had waited for an ambulance for three hours after reporting chest pain. It is outrageous,” he said.
“Another example I heard of was a family waiting six hours for the ambulance to turn up with their dad dead on the sofa, only to confirm that he was dead.”
Independent Coun Wayne Rogers added: “You cannot play around with the emergency services. There was an incident in the north of the town a few weeks ago where a lady was injured in the road – she lay there screaming for five hours with a smashed hip.”
Labour Coun Nigel Yates also had concerns, especially with the approach of winter.
He said: “Once these services are removed, they will never return.
“You don’t have to look back too far to see that we once had a reliable ambulance service that was always on hand, a rapid response vehicle and community first responders. In January, it is going to be mayhem and there will be no one to call.”
Labour Coun Jill Salt added: “That ambulance station is as much use as a chocolate fireguard after 10am, when the ambulance has had its first call, because they don’t return to Biddulph.
“We have probably been getting ambulances from Stoke for the last 18 months so I think people may have been adversely affected already.
“If we are going to write to the service, we need to put an alternative idea across. I also think it is vitally important that we acknowledge that it is the lack of funding from the Conservative party that has caused this problem.”
It was agreed that the town council would submit a Freedom of Information request to ask for the average response times to incidents in Biddulph while the town had a rapid response vehicle, as well as for data for the year since it has been removed. The data requested will cover the last five years.
The authority will then use the information to argue its case to both the ambulance service and Moorlands MP Karen Bradley.