THOUSANDS of concerned Rugby residents have signed a petition opposing the planned closure of Rugby Community Ambulance Station (RCAS).
The RCAS at the Hospital of St Cross – the base of the only ambulance which starts and ends its shift in Rugby – is due to close at the end of September.
A West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) spokesman has said the number of ambulances operating in the area will not decrease – but the move has nevertheless sparked concern that call-out times in the town will be affected.
Alison Livesey, a Rugby resident for 17 years, has started a petition against the closure which has so far been signed by over 4,300 people.
She disputed WMAS’ claim that closing the ‘rarely used’ building would save funds which could instead be spent on additional staff and vehicles.
She said: “When my family first moved here we had our own ambulance station. That closed after a few years and was replaced with two emergency response cars. These were then discontinued, and replaced with one ambulance which we are now set to lose.
“This is clearly not a focus on investing in ‘staff and vehicles’, but a clear reduction in services in a town which is rapidly expanding.
“My family has direct experience of long waiting times for an ambulance in an emergency, and I hear from friends that the situation is only getting worse with ambulance response times frequently exceeding two hours, and even worse, ambulances not turning up at all.
“I am aware we are living in exceptional times with huge demands on the health service, but I cannot fathom how this proposal is in any way a positive step for the residents of our town.
“We want the WMAS to think again. We want to be consulted on changes because we pay for this service through our taxes. Our public services are being relentlessly degraded at a time the population is growing.”
She added Mark Pawsey MP had agreed to present the petition to Parliament.
A WMAS spokesman said the ambulance based at RCAS only attended 3.4 per cent of call-outs in Rugby over the first six months of the year.
He said: “There is a common misconception that where an ambulance starts or finishes a shift will have an impact on the area it is based in. As soon as an ambulance is available it will be sent to the nearest available case.
“It is now rare, if ever, that the crews who work at RCAS ever get back to the site other than for their meal break or the end of their shift. They go from one emergency to the next.
“We are duty bound to consider whether it is appropriate for the Trust to spend precious funds on a building that is rarely used when these could instead be spent on additional staff and vehicles.
“We have been asked whether a closure would mean ambulances have to come from elsewhere each time a call comes in – and the answer is no. In Rugby, in roughly 25,000 occasions over the first six months of the year, an ambulance was in the area available to respond even though it wasn’t the ambulance based in the town.
“Any changes made will not see a decrease in the number of ambulances in the area, just change where they start or finish a shift. Removing the RCAS site actually increases the amount of time ambulances are available to respond to patients.
“We will only make a change if we are convinced it will benefit patients.”
Visit https://tinyurl.com/42jkmw8b to sign the petition.