Proposed changes to ambulance service

A SENIOR councillor says he wants to see more details about plans for a major shake-up within an ambulance service.

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is considering plans to reclassify ambulances into three categories that would change the number of vehicles covering Hartlepool and east Durham.

The categories would be emergency vehicles (double crew paramedic ambulances and emergency rapid response cars), urgent care vehicles and patient transport vehicles.

Staff consultations started this week and the NEAS say the aim is to adopt a new target that every emergency call should be attended by a paramedic.

Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, chair of Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum, has called to see the full details.

Coun Akers-Belcher has called on the NEAS to present the proposals to the scrutiny forum.

Hartlepool currently has two double crew paramedic ambulances which could increase to three while rapid response vehicles could reduce from three to two.

Meanwhile, Hartlepool could see the number of urgent care ambulances, which transport patients with non-life threatening conditions, reduced from two to one.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I would expect the NEAS would come to the scrutiny forum to explain the proposals.

“I would like to see a more detailed plan as to how this will affect Hartlepool and I hope that the town gets a fair deal.”

In Teesside, the ambulance fleet could increase by two vehicles overall.

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “I accept that there may be an increase in provision across Teesside and I will be having dialogue to see how this does change cover in town.

“I would certainly be opposed to any cuts in provision.”

It is planned to increase cover in Billingham, but reduce cover in Peterlee from a total of three vehicles to one.

Ambulance bosses have stressed no ambulance stations will close.

Mark Cotton, assistant director of communications with the NEAS, said: “We deal with 360,000 emergency calls a year.

“We can plot where demand is falling and growing.

“Demand has continued to rise and we need to review where our ambulances are based and the resources that we have in each location and try to match what we have with the demand.”

The last review was carried out in 2006 and Mr Cotton said it is good practice to regularly review the service.

The NEAS brought in an extra paramedic ambulance, which is not included in the figures, to help cover town after the closure of the accident and emergency department at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

In County Durham, the ambulance fleet could reduce by three vehicles but Mr Cotton said staff numbers would go up from 237 to 257.

The total number of staff working in the NEAS accident and emergency service should increase from the current 979 to 1,046 by the time the changes are completed in April next year.