Green light to close ambulance stations in Lincolnshire
Ambulance stations in Lincolnshire look set to be closed as part of a bid to reach patients more quickly.
East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) has been under pressure since it was fined millions for the third year in a row for not hitting targets to respond to emergency calls within a set time.
It announced plans to tackle the issue by replacing its 18 ambulance stations in Lincolnshire with four 'super hub' stations, six smaller ambulance stations, and a number of 'community ambulance points', which have a toilet, rest and eating facilities.
Lincolnshire County Council's health scrutiny committee raised concerns the plan would not improve response times and asked Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to look into the matter.
He referred it to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), an advisory body for ministers on proposals for health service change in England.
The IRP has decided that a full review on the issue is not needed, which paves the way for the ambulance stations to be closed.
An EMAS spokesperson said: "In light of this judgement, we will now be pressing on with the planned reconfiguration of our estate holdings in Lincolnshire, alongside those taking place in other divisions.
"Ambulance stations no longer play a role in the way our modern ambulance service is provided.
"Today, crews respond to the vast majority of calls from out on the road and we provide treatment to patients where help is needed – the ambulance is our treatment centre.
"Also, many of our stations were built several decades ago and need investment – in the region of £13million - to make them fit for purpose.
"We cannot see any benefit to patients in spending this amount of money on buildings which are empty during the majority of the day.
"This is a five-year plan and we are now looking in detail at the timescales for implementing the changes."
The IRP has asked EMAS to provide details on how the changes to the stations will reduce response times.
Cllr Christine Talbot, chairman of the Health Scrutiny Committee for Lincolnshire, said: "I am disappointed that the issues we raised won't be looked into further, but the IRP has at least recognised there are problems with the performance of EMAS.
"I'm very pleased that the IRP believe the scrutiny committee had reason to have concerns over this, and that EMAS should provide further clarification on how it expects improvements in performance to actually be achieved.
"We now need to look to the future working with EMAS to get the best possible outcomes for Lincolnshire people from their ambulance service, and we're committed to monitoring the changes and keeping this high on the agenda."