Midhurst ambulance station could face closure

MIDHURST ambulance station could be axed as plans for the setting up of a new ‘super station’ south of the Downs are unveiled.

South East Coast Ambulance Servce (SECAmb) which covers Kent, Surrey and Sussex has submitted plans for a ‘Make Ready’ centre at Chichester Business Park, Tangmere which will become one of four new ‘super stations’ covering the Sussex area.

The new hub would replace ambulance stations in the area and it is expected that crews currently reporting to Chichester, Midhurst, Bognor Regis and Pulbrough would start and end their shifts at the new centre.

But the trust says crews would then move to a network of strategically-placed ‘response posts’ to wait for emergency calls after reporting to the Make Ready centres.

Chairman of Midhust Town Council John Etherington said the area north of the Downs appeared to be getting less and less services. The town was already under threat of losing one of its fire engines and now it could lose its ambulance station: “It seems to me we are slowly being isolated.”

He said it was vital to have an ambulance available north of Cocking Hill especially in bad weather as the road was often virtually impassable in heavy snow.

“I don’t think they will meet their response time targets, especially in the winter, if there isn’t an ambulance in the town.”

More and more homes were being built in the area, said Mr Etherington including homes for elderly people and the town needed first class ambulance cover.

In a document leaked to the Observer when the scheme was first muted three years ago, more concern was expressed over a claimed lack of consultation: “There is no patient input, no union input, no ambulance staff input and no doctors’ input.”

Plans for three other super stations in Sussex have already been given the go ahead at Brighton, Crawley and Polegate and two have been built in Kent.

A spokesman for the trust said: “Decisions regarding the closure of ambulance stations will be made on an individual basis and on whether they are in the best location to respond to patients.

“However, the closures of ambulance stations will only take place once a response post is operational – thus protecting and enhancing the service we provide to patients.”

South East Coast Ambulance programme director for estates, Geoff Catling, said: “These facilities will not only ensure our clinical staff are freed up to do the job they are trained to do – treat patients, there will be the prospect of job opportunities as our Make Ready contractors look to recruit operatives from the area.”

The new teams would be employed to clean and restock ambulances at Tangmere.