Fears have been expressed over proposals to cut one of the ambulances based at Nelson Ambulance Station during the day.
The North West Ambulance Service has announced it plans to save almost £14m. from this year’s budget in its Cost Improvement Plan.
These involve the withdrawal of one emergency ambulance during the day at eight stations – the one in Rakes House Road and others in Ellesmere Port, Formby, Warrington, Burscough, Blackburn (two days), Leyland (two days) and Accrington – and a night time vehicle at stations in Bury, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool (Thursday-Sunday), Carlisle and Penrith.
The Unison trade union said this week the cuts would mean people needing emergency medical assistance could face longer waits, and services in neighbouring areas to where the cuts are proposed would also be affected as they are required to cover a larger area.
Paul Foley, UNISON North West’s Head of Health, said: “This is a matter of life and death. Ambulance response times are absolutely crucial in determining survival rates and we should all be concerned about reductions in the availability of emergency assistance.
“We never know when we might need it.
“These proposed cuts show the NHS is not safe in this Government’s hands.
“Funding has not kept up with demand for health care. The Treasury clawed back £2.1bn from the NHS last year and another £1.5bn was squandered on an unnecessary and damaging reorganisation.
“The NHS is creaking under the strain of insufficient resources.
“We remain a wealthy country and it is not acceptable that we have to take unnecessary risks with reduced ambulance cover.”
In response, Alan Stuttard, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Finance for the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “In an increasingly challenging financial environment, like any organisation, we do need to look at how efficiencies can be made. Our priority is and will always be patient care.
“All NHS trusts are required to make savings and NWAS needs to save £13.8m. in this financial year – this equates to £6m. from corporate services, £6m. from emergency services and £1m. from our patient transport services.
“In terms of corporate services, we are currently undertaking a review of services and it is possible this may result in the loss of posts throughout the region. We have already reduced the Executive team by making two posts redundant.
“Any removal of services is done following a quality impact assessment as the trust strives to ensure the high standard of care we currently provide to patients is maintained and, at this stage, these proposals are still under discussion.
“As part of an engagement exercise, we are discussing the savings we have to make with our staff.
“We have met with the unions to discuss what savings we propose to make and possible ways in which we can achieve these and will continue to do so as we progress.
“Once plans are finalised, we intend to fully discuss these with our external partners and stakeholders.”