Ambulance bosses are proposing the closure of two Lancashire ambulance stations and moving ambulances to work out of fire stations in a bid to save cash.
Concerned ambulance workers have revealed talks are underway between the ambulance service and fire service with proposals to close Burscough ambulance station and move resources to Ormskirk fire station and to close Skelmersdale ambulance station and move facilities over to Skelmersdale fire station.
The dynamics of the Burscough area is about to change with planning permission being granted for house building, but this does not seem to have been taken into account.Bob Parkinson
Unions today expressed their anger and said there had been no consultation.
Neil Cosgrove, secretary elect of UNITE the union at North West Ambulance Service (NWAS), said: “We know we have to tighten our belts from a financial point of view.
“However, these decisions are being made without any consultation with the union.
“We believe the potential closure of Burscough ambulance station will have a detrimental impact on the public of Burscough and surrounding areas.
“We actually have a standby point at Ormskirk Hospital which is adequate should performance demand its utilisation. What concerns us is that we are moving more and more to sharing facilities with the fire service. It is a cost cutting exercise and we believe it is the tip of the iceberg to the break up of the NHS.”
Bob Parkinson, from UNITE, said: “The dynamics of the Burscough area is about to change with planning permission being granted for house building, but this does not seem to have been taken into account.
“If we continue to close stations at this rate, we will soon not have an independently run NHS ambulance service.
“We demand answers regarding the secret agenda behind closing ambulance stations and moving into fire station.”
Rosie Cooper, West Lancashire MP, said: “Ensuring patient safety and access to ambulance services is my absolute priority. The government’s refusal to adequately fund NHS services is clearly having an impact on frontline services.
“Now I am aware of these proposals, I have written to the chief executive of the North West Ambulance Service demanding answers.
“I will not accept a situation in which cost-cutting is prioritised ahead of patient safety.”
A spokesman for NWAS said: “In the current financial climate, we are looking at ways to make efficiencies with minimum disruption to the frontline including a review of our ambulance stations.
“A number of these buildings are in a poor state of repair or are no longer best placed to serve the needs of the community.
“We are looking at all of our sites and considering a range of options including co-location with other emergency services.
“Any money saved as a result of any move will be re-invested into the frontline to benefit patients.
“It is important to point out ambulance stations are merely a base for ambulance crews to start and finish their shifts. Should a member of the public call 999, it is not always the case that an ambulance will come directly from the local ambulance station.
“Discussions around Burscough or Skelmersdale ambulance stations are in the very early stages and no formal proposals have been drawn up.
“Once they are, our staff will be fully informed and able to put forward their views.”