Ambulance service slammed for 'failing this area' by Cleveland's Police and crime Commissioner
Ambulance service chiefs have been accused of failing areas around the River Tees – with fears emergency vehicles are being directed over the Transporter Bridge.
Cleveland Police and Commissioner Barry Coppinger blasted the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) – claiming Tyneside-based call centre staff simply did not know the area when calls came in.
Criticism came after questions about whether a new joint emergency call centre could come to Teesside at the latest Cleveland Police and Crime Panel.
Mr Coppinger said he’d welcome in colleagues from NEAS but went on to slam the service – labelling it Tyneside-based and Tyneside led.
The Labour commissioner added: “NEAS is an ambulance service for the North East, not for Tyneside.
“But in my view NEAS are very rarely taking an interest in this part of the world.
“I think we should have board representation on Teesside, our share of management on Teesside and we should certainly have more of a base on Teesside for what is an essential service.
“We’ve got a strong police presence and we’ve a strong fire service presence, but I think NEAS is failing this area.”
A report on the latest performance of NEAS states the service is finding meeting target times “challenging”.
He said he wants to see a closer working relationship between police and ambulance service.
Mr Coppinger said: “Bear in mind we used to have 27 staff on Teesside who worked in the NEAS control room – and that control room was closed and centralised in Newcastle.
“One at a time all of those 27 staff fell away.
“We know (the effect) from past experiences where ambulances have been directed across the Transporter (Bridge) – or they’re sent to all the wrong places because they’re based on Tyneside and don’t understand the area.”
In response, NEAS chief executive Helen Ray said: “In October 2018, we showed our commitment to the Teesside area by opening a new clinical hub in Billingham to house additional clinicians as part of our successful NHS111 service, which services the whole of the North East and increases our resilience as an organisation.
“We considered sharing with the police whilst searching for a suitable site but it was clear after review that the accommodation available would not be appropriate for our needs.
“We are always working to ensure our services are equitable and our senior team work hard to maintain visibility across our whole area which covers 3,500 square miles.”
Ms Ray added five of the past nine public public board meetings had been held in the new Billingham base.
She said: “We have board directors who both live and have previously worked in Teesside.
“We are also proud to run an extremely successful joint initiative with Cleveland Police every weekend, providing a joint response to incidents which require both services in order to provide a seamless service to Teesside residents.
“And, while we recognise performance is challenging, our performance for the South Tees CCG and Hartlepool and Stockton CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) areas is consistent with the rest of the North East.”