Campaign to Save Welshpool’s Wales Air Ambulance Base

Campaign to Save Welshpool’s Wales Air Ambulance Base

Updated: February 2024

One last push to save Welshpool’s Air Ambulance Base

The final engagement stage on the future of air ambulance bases and operations has now begun. It runs until February 29th. This is our last chance to show a strong and united local voice to save Welshpool’s base.

I have detailed below how you can respond, with suggested points to make in the questionnaire that we are being asked to complete.

Over the last 18 months, a campaign to save the base has united our community because of how vital this service is for our area. My view is clear. The case for closing Welshpool's base is flawed, trust locally has been undermined and the current operation must remain open.

The Final Engagement - February 2024

Last month, following previous engagement phases, we learned that a previously unexpected appraisal had taken place. Six options were outlined. We are told that of these six options, two scored the highest. Disappointingly, both these options would see the closure of the Welshpool base (in the questionnaire they are referred to as Options A & B). This appraisal seems to have taken very little account of the strong public opinion that has been expressed through the process so far.

Last week, Craig Williams MP and I, along with others, met with Stephen Harrhy, the Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner, who has led the engagement process, to discuss the final stage of the consultation.

He assured us, despite the reference to “shortlisted options”, that he had made no recommendation and that he does not yet have one in mind. His final recommendations will be made in March. Mr Harrhy was clear in his view this was not a done deal, and the Commissioner was keen to press the importance of this questionnaire.

He also informed us that the two “shortlisted options” were not in his view perfect and that he would welcome any additional feedback on these and other options equally.

As a local campaign team, we believe Option 6, which sees all the four current bases remain open, is the best option for us in Mid Wales and for Wales as a whole, and one which would ensure our local base remains open. An overwhelming response in support of this option is our best chance of retaining Welshpool’s base.

You can respond to the questionnaire with the link below. I have also set out my own answers below which you are welcome to use to help you complete the questionnaire. If you want to save the Welshpool air base, we need as many people as possible to respond.

https://forms.office.com/pages/responsepage.aspx?id=uChWuyjjgkCoVkM8ntyPrlZpIHMNjHNAgjjXBaLfWEtUM1ZBNFM5OEREQ1haSzVHNktGWDhMVDdVQS4u

My response:

Question 1 - The Six Options

I am supporting option 6. I am concerned because of the wide range of reasons raised in the first two stages of the engagement process that serious issues remain as a result of closing Welshpool and Caernarfon’s bases.

Rural Mid Wales needs a strong Air Ambulance presence, partly to make up for poorer local health provision,  particularly in emergencies. Powys has no District General Hospital, and this makes the need for an Air Ambulance service vital - especially the need for specialised medical care to arrive quickly to an incident, and transfer patients to appropriate medical care outside of the county.

Inadequate and more difficult road access also makes the need for an Air Ambulance service all the more critical.

Closing the base in Welshpool will have a significant, detrimental impact on our communities. If decisions are made based on proper consideration of local views, it would be clear already that both bases would remain open. Local feeling is very strong.

Option 6 boosts capacity and response times in North Wales with the addition of a Rapid Response Vehicle while preserving vital bases for Mid and in Northwest Wales.

Question 2 - Please let us know what you think is good about Option A

I believe this option is harmful for people throughout Mid and Northwest Wales,  and is not a suitable option to take forward.

Question 3 - Please let us know what you think is not so good about Option A

This option sees the closure of two vital air bases which have been responsible for saving countless lives and responding to critical incidents in rural areas for many years.

This option will take air ambulances further from the areas where they are most needed. The proposed new location in North Central Wales is located within in a populated area, that already has better access to emergency care. It does not take into account the needs of an older Mid Wales population and workers in Mid Wales in more hazardous professions such as farming or visiting tourists.

If only one base is operated to cover the Mid and North Wales areas, adverse weather could mean all air ambulances located at this one base are grounded. Currently, separate bases give added protection if one base is hit by bad weather or other events.

It is likely to result in reduced donations for the Wales Air Ambulance charity, threatening their continued valued service.

Question 4 - Do you think Option A might have an effect (either positive or negative) on the following?

I selected age, people based on where they live, and typed into the “Other” box:

I believe that this option only has negative effects. Mid Wales has an older population, who live in rural locations, and moving the Air Ambulance further away will be harmful.

Question 5 - Please let us know what you think is good about Option B

I believe this option is harmful for people throughout Mid Wales and is not a suitable option to take forward.

Question 6 - Please let us know what you think is not so good about Option B

This option sees the closure of two vital air bases which have been responsible for saving countless lives and responding to critical incidents in rural areas for many years.

This option will take air ambulances further from the areas where they are most needed. The proposed new location in North Central Wales is located within in a populated area, that already has better access to emergency care. It does not take into account the needs of an older Mid Wales population and workers in Mid Wales in more hazardous professions such as farming or visiting tourists.

If only one base is operated to cover the Mid and North Wales areas, adverse weather could mean all air ambulances located at this one base are grounded. Currently, separate bases give added protection if one base is hit by bad weather or other events.

It is likely to result in reduced donations for the Wales Air Ambulance charity, threatening their continued valued service.

Question 7 - Do you think Option B might have an effect (either positive or negative) on the following? (Please select all that apply)

I selected age, people based on where they live, and typed into the “Other” box:

I believe that this option only has negative effects. Mid Wales has an older population, who live in rural locations, and moving the Air Ambulance further away will be harmful.

Question 8 - Extra Actions - Please let us know what you think about the extra actions as described above

These extra actions would not be required if the four current bases remained in operation. They are a poor substitute for a locally-based Air Ambulance which is needed in mid and north west Wales.

Question 9 - Please let us know if you have any other feedback not already covered in the questions asked

While the engagement process has been lengthy, I am concerned that the voice of residents and the community is not being sufficiently listened to. It is very clear that the community of Mid Wales is overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the four existing bases.

I would highlight that rural Mid Wales needs a strong Air Ambulance presence, partly to make up for poorer local health provision,  particularly in emergencies. Powys has no District General Hospital, and this makes the need for an Air Ambulance service vital - especially the need for specialised medical care to arrive quickly to an incident, and transfer patients to appropriate medical care outside of the county.

The shortlisted options A and B are not suitable and will lead to a significant and unacceptable reduction in emergency care provision for the people of Mid Wales, will impact the Air Ambulance charity, and should be discarded.

Option 6 is by far the most appropriate and best option.  

Question 10 – Onwards

It should be noted that these questions do not need to be completed.  You can decide if you want to complete these questions or not.

Don’t forget to click Submit at the very end.

 

You can also find my detailed response to phase three by clicking here.