Wendy Dyson and Macolm Povey report on the 25 August public meeting about proposed cuts at Honley ambulance station. The meeting resolved to build a Save Honley Ambulance Station campaign and, if appropriate, to petition against proposed cuts to staff, ambulances and responder cars.
The meeting was attended by paramedics, ambulance staff and members of the public. Speakers were from the ambulance service, Rob Walker from Labour, Cristina George from Hands off HRI, Pat Jones from Slaithwaite SOS and Royston Rogers – a Holme Valley parish councillor and former ambulance staff member.
Basically, Honley ambulance station have been told that there will be an approximately 50% reduction in ambulance staff – from 28 to 14. This will be achieved through moving staff to Greater Huddersfield or possibly Bradford. Ambulances at Honley serving the Dearne, top of Colne valley and Holme Valley will go from 2 ambulances and 2 responder cars to one of each. They also have 2 patient transport ambulances.
With the proposed closure of HRI A&E, their main concern isn’t travel times getting to CRH, but waiting at CRH in a queue to hand over to overloaded A&E staff. They predict this to be substantial wait. They say paramedics can stabilise most emergencies and extra distance in itself doesn’t make a difference because they can stabilise that patient – but if they can’t admit the patient, how can they respond to the next call out? How long will this take?
This is their biggest concern – that once in Halifax, the ambulance doesn’t get back to the Kirklees valleys, because of the long handover time. The responder car will be left waiting for the ambulance with little equipment and sometimes less skills! Very worrying.
This proposal is target-driven to achieve the required 75% of their eight minute target response time. The management are playing a numbers game – concentrating on city centres so they can get their targets up, at the expense of the valleys. They are more likely to achieve the targets in the central Huddersfield area, but with fewer ambulances in the Valleys it’s predicted that the mortality rate will increase with the higher response times! A postcode lottery comes to mind!
Parish councillor and retired ambulance staff member Royston Rogers, compared Kirklees ‘Valleys’ to valleys in Wales of similar size and location characteristics, where they already concentrate on urban areas, neglecting rural areas. This has resulted in ambulances been tied up at hospitals awaiting handover for six to eight hours. This has reflected in an increased mortality rate.
Because of the difficulty of retaining Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff, there are more private ambulances. As they aren’t achieving the 75% R1 and R2 calls within 8 minutes and can’t retain staff, Yorkshire Ambulance Service are now frequently using private ambulances, like St John and Falck , which are the biggest provider. YAS has spent £68m on private ambulances this year.
These are 999 ambulances, not patient transport ambulances, and there are safety issues about private ambulances – who are they? What is their skill level? Worrying. Apparently they have come from as far away as Newcastle and been paid very highly.
Unison is in negotiation with employers.
There’s is a nationwide problem with ambulance staff retention. Young people come in, as paramedic emergency practitioners are getting jobs in GP practices. At the meeting it was said,
“Paramedics are leaving in droves”.
Management is reducing staffing levels. There are 100 more staff in Yorkshire as a whole, BUT NOT TRAINED STAFF. Community responders do a great job, but are not a substitute for trained paramedics.
A big concern is that since joining South Yorkshire the Honley area has expanded to Penistone and Stocksbridge with fewer staff.
There are also plans to downgrade services in Barnsley. HD9 would go to Barnsley and Oldham. Dewsbury A&E is closing next year (becoming an urgent care centre) and Dewsbury ambulance station is losing staff.
Another point raised: after the police road traffic unit was moved from Holmfirth to Wakefield, the road traffic accident response time in the Kirklees Valleys has increased to an hour. The ambulance service predict similar ambulance response times if Honley ambulance station were to close.
At the moment Honley ambulances return to base 20 times a day, this will reduce to twice a day. For the moment ambulance staff come back to base station for meal break. They used to come back for tea break, but that has stopped.
The Honley ambulance staff are now awaiting further Union advice. They plan to attend the 4th Sept Hands off HRI March in Greenhead Park & are considering starting a petition.
Paula Sheriff MP is trying to fast track a meeting in the House of Commons regarding the ambulance cuts.