Ambulance changes could affect Midhurst

Midhurst looks set to lose its ambulance station as plans for three super stations progress.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) wants to create ‘Make Ready Centres’ (MRCs) to be based in Chichester, Crawley and Brighton areas, plus 14 ambulance community response posts. The changes will replace nine ambulance stations around the county.

West Sussex County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) heard last week that a number of locations for the Chichester MRC have been considered, with the ‘preferred option’ being a 1.5 acre site at the Tangmere business park in the south of the district.

The health watchdogs have agreed to keep an ‘on-going overview’ of ambulance services in rural areas.

Commercial director for SECAmb, Geraint Davies said that even in rural areas of West Sussex, ambulances were already achieving a good performance, with a response time of 6min 14sec, against a target of eight minutes.

But member Cllr Ann Jones had asked what would happen in the ‘desert area’ around the centre of West Sussex.

“Paramedics are the people who save patients’ lives before they get to hospital,” she said.

The Observer learned of the plans last year, with former town councillor Tony Beck saying it would be vital to have a response post north of the downs.

The meeting heard one of the aims was to address the ‘real challenge’ of infection control in ambulances, and also to make sure they were located in the right place at the right time. The committee was given a detailed presentation on the plans, in which they were told the move would result in ambulances responding from more locations than they had in the past.

Mr Davies said they were endeavouring to increase their level of support in the community, with an increased number of sites.

He said the trust’s current buildings were old, and in the wrong place.

“We need to ensure staff are operating from high-performing facilities,” he said.

With the plans SECAmb wants to ensure ambulances are located in the right places at the right times to meet patient demand, and they would be moved around the posts. The location would be different, for example, during rush-hour periods to times of day when people were going shopping.

SECAmb says the changes will ‘maximise patient safety’ through a rigorous vehicle and equipment cleaning and infection control regime and maximising the number of hours clinicians can see patients. It would help minimise the risk of a vehicle breaking down en route and reduce the risk of a lack of failure of equipment.

Closure or disposal of stations would take place only once a response post was up and running.