NO AMBULANCES will start or finish their shifts in Rugby from October, after West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) announced Rugby Community Ambulance Station (RCAS) will close at the end of September.
The move has sparked concern among the community and from Rugby’s MP that call-out times in the town would be affected – but a WMAS spokesman said the number of ambulances operating in the area would not decrease.
The RCAS, based at the Hospital of St Cross, is currently the base of the only ambulance which starts and ends its shift in Rugby.
But WMAS’ Communications Director said the ambulance only attended 3.4 per cent of call-outs in Rugby over the first six months of the year.
Murray MacGregor 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.”
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey has written to Anthony Marsh, the Chief Executive of WMAS NHS Trust, saying he remains ‘very concerned’ about the closure of RCAS.
In the letter, he expressed worry at making a long term decision based on the ‘exceptionally high demand’ seen during the pandemic.
He also asked the Trust for statistics on the length of time Rugby residents wait for an ambulance, and the time it takes to reach a hospital.
He added: “The Trust has suggested the closure would release money for more ambulances and staff, so I would be grateful for details of the annual cost of maintaining RCAS.
“I would also like to know what consultation has been undertaken with staff, and to what extent their views are being considered as part of the review.
“As per the NHS constitution, ‘the NHS is accountable to the public, communities and patients that it serves’. On this basis, the public should also be consulted.”
Rugby Borough and Warwickshire County Councillor Jerry Roodhouse said Rugby Borough Council and the Health Scrutiny Committee should be consulted about the decision, and called for the County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee and Warwickshire Healthwatch to intervene.
He said: “I have had one resident waiting five hours for an ambulance. It is not acceptable.”