Ambulance ‘bean counters’ put lives at risk

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Accident on Ruswarp Bank''w133325b
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A Whitby county councillor says the ‘bean counters’ who operate the region’s ambulance service will cause deaths by slashing the provision of ambulances in the area.

Last week’s Whitby Gazette explained how the Yorkshire Ambulance Service is proposing to cut the number of ambulances based at its Whitby station to just one, supported by a rapid response vehicle.

However, Mayfield-cum-Mulgrave county councillor David Chance has criticised the proposals, saying the change would be “catastrophic” for the people of Whitby, and that he was disappointed the service had not learned the lessons of the past.

He explained that the ambulance service had previously suggested cutting the provision to just a single unit, but clinical and public pressure - led primarily by local doctors - had caused the plans to be withdrawn.

“We have been through this once before,” he said. “What it appears to be is the bean counters have come in and they have looked at the statistics and nothing else.”

Coun Chance said the clinical need to provide patient transport to hospitals, which can not be provided by a rapid response vehicle, requires a minimum of two ambulances. While one ambulance is making the two-hour round trip to Middlesbrough’s hospital, another must be on stand-by in case of emergencies.

What is instead happening, he said, is the health services are “relegating the residents of Whitby and the surrounding area to second class citizenship.”

However, David Williams, deputy director of operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, sought to reassure members of the public that patients’ needs are at the heart of everything it does.

“Our absolute focus throughout this process is on ensuring that we continue to deliver a safe, responsive and high quality service to the people of Yorkshire,” he said, adding increased efficiency would result in a positive impact on services and the working lives of staff.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service is proposing the cuts as it attempts to make £46m in savings over the next five years.

Services are judged upon their ability to meet a strict target of reaching 75 per cent of emergency cases within eight minutes, and within 19 minutes 95 per cent of the time.

In April a Freedom of Information Act request by the Gazette discovered that response times by ambulances in the Whitby area had almost doubled over the space of a year.