NHS bosses plan to shut down every local ambulance station in London, raising fears that patients will be injured if 999 teams take longer to reach them, the Guardian can reveal.
The London Ambulance Service (LAS) has launched a controversial program to shut down 68 ambulance stations and replace them with 18 new “ambulance deployment centers” or “hubs”.
A group of patients called the plan “dangerous” and MPs fear that having fewer ambulance stations in the capital will mean patients wait longer to get to hospital.
“This decision to close every ambulance station in London could cause significant harm to patients due to the delays that will take place in reaching them,” said Malcolm Alexander, chair of the LAS Patients’ Forum, a non-statutory oversight body, and Hackney Healthwatch, a government-funded statutory body that reviews NHS services in the Borough of East London.
“We have encountered many situations where people have been harmed because ambulances have taken too long to get there. It appears to be quite dangerous from a patient safety point of view. “
The LAS included the plan to close the 68 stations in its “vision of estates” document, which it published in 2019, but did not make public or invite the public to react. It had gone unnoticed until MPs in London were alerted by the LAS Patients’ Forum and Hackney Healthwatch.
He says the closures would not result in longer wait times, but would improve the care patients receive and give paramedics better facilities.
Four ambulance stations in north-east London – in Romford, Ilford, Hornchurch and Becontree – have already been booked for closure in the first stage of the plan. They will be replaced by a new ambulance deployment center at Romford in Havering. Local MPs have expressed unease over the change.
In a letter in June to Andrew Blake-Herbert, Managing Director of Havering Council, LAS Deputy Managing Director Khadir Meer said the service plans “to renovate our domain by replacing our existing 68 stations with a network of 18 state stations. State-of-the-art ambulance deployment centers, operating under a new “hub and spoke” model.
“Once the new ambulance station is operational, this will ultimately lead to the permanent closure of these [four] stations, ”he added.
But Meer assured Blake-Herbert that “this change will not negatively affect patients in the region. It will transform the way we work to ensure that we are providing consistent, high quality care to our patients when they need us. The new hub “will be designed around patient care and will allow rapid and efficient preparation and deployment of our frontline teams,” he said.
Margaret Hodge, Labor MP for Barking, said: “The proposed closure of Becontree ambulance station and three others in north-east London to create a hub in Romford is worrying.
“Placing the closest ambulance station to my constituents further away from their homes will, needless to say, negatively impact response times for 999 calls and, as a result, impoverish the quality of care for residents. . The impact that this free decision will have on people in a medical emergency is unjustifiable.
A review by Lord Carter of Coles of England’s 10 regional ambulance services found that the LAS had the most stations in terms of area covered, with one for every eight square miles (13 km2), compared to one for every 92 square miles ( 148 km²) in the West Midlands. But he also found that each of the 68 stations covered a population of 120,000 – the largest in England.
Jon Cruddas, Labor MP for Dagenham and Rainham, has previously expressed concern that “the loss of an ambulance base in Becontree raises concerns about response times in the Dagenham part of my constituency.
“While I understand the need to consolidate existing facilities, I will seek assurance from LAS that this will not negatively impact those requiring urgent attention in Dagenham and Rainham. “
A spokesperson for LAS said: “The London ambulance service currently has the largest number of stations in the UK and the oldest area. Additionally, a significant proportion of the LAS estate is underutilized and unsuitable, with parts having been built in the 1800s.
“We are at a very early stage of developing a London-wide strategy to transform our domain to meet future needs, and at all stages of this process we will ensure that any changes occur. have no impact on the care patients receive. ”