Service chiefs scrap plans to close stations to focus on winter ahead
Chiswick Ambulance Station: Picture: Google Streetview
Plans by London Ambulance Service (LAS) to significantly reduce the number of stations it operates, which would have probably led to the closure of Chiswick Ambulance Station, have been put on hold.
The recently appointed head of the services has confirmed that he has shelved the proposal to consolidate its operation from 68 sites in the capital to just 12 ambulance deployment centres. The initial roll out of the new strategy in north east London has been halted.
Following press coverage of the plan, Daniel Elkeless said no station sites will be sold until a long term plan is agreed. He took the decision because he believes the focus of the service needs to be on what is expected to be a very challenging winter ahead.
In a message to staff quoted in the Evening Standard on Wednesday (29 September), Mr Elkeles said, “We will not sell any of the ambulance stations that we own — there are some that we lease, where the landlords wish us to vacate — until we have an agreed estates plan.
“I want to reassure you that ultimately, we will not make any changes to our services, which impact on the quality of care we provide to our patients. As our staff and volunteers know, ambulances do not, in the main, respond from ambulances stations.”
A deployment centre that was planned on a Dagenham industrial estate is being axed due to the high cost of the lease and the application is being withdrawn.
Most ambulance stations were closed at the start of the pandemic to concentrate the services but they have gradually reopened as lockdown eased with 53 set to be operational by the end of the year. A review is to be undertaken at this time to decide how many should be retained.
Chiswick Ambulance Station on Goldhawk Road is one of the smaller facilities in the services network and was widely expected to be axed under the previous estates plan. The site is leased from a company called Look Ahead Housing and Care Ltd which bought the property in 2000 for £840,000. It is now believed to be worth over £2,000,000.
NHS campaign groups have welcomed the decision to suspend the proposed closures.
Malcolm Alexander, chair of LAS Patients’ Forum, said, “We congratulate the LAS on their decision to roll back their plans to close 68 ambulance stations in London and replace them with 18 ambulance super hubs.
“The LAS needs to concentrate on its performance - getting emergency ambulance to sick patients more quickly. Closing ambulance stations will make the situation in London worse, by creating a greater distance between ambulances and patients. Lives are at risk when ambulance take too long to get to patients.
“Huge ambulance hubs will only add to London’s pollution and anyway where is no land to such development?”
Some of the stations in the network date back to the Victorian days of horse-drawn ambulances in the 1880s and it is thought likely that there will be some consolidation proposed in the review taking place next year.
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October 2, 2021