Campaign to Save Welshpool’s Wales Air Ambulance Base

Campaign to Save Welshpool’s Wales Air Ambulance Base

Updated: May 2024

Following a fundamentally flawed decision taken by the NHS Wales Joint Commissioning Committee  (JCC) in April to close and centralise the Caernarfon and Welshpool Air Ambulance bases, campaign groups in both areas have met to agree on a joint way forward. 

The JCC is made up of CEOs of Welsh Health Boards, and other Independent members. Despite strong opposition from residents in Mid and North Wales, most Welsh health boards voted in favour of these plans, with only the Powys Teaching Health Board and Betsi Cadwaladr in north Wales opposing them. The impact of this decision is hugely disappointing for us in Montgomeryshire. 

As part of the decision made, the JCC also recommended implementing a ‘special emergency road service’ using Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV) as an alternative. Not only would this option be deeply unsatisfactory for a rural area like Montgomeryshire, there is no detail of how this would operate or cost. All it takes is for one extreme weather event or road closure to severely impact the ability of RRV’s to reach patients who are in need.

Unfortunately, this decision will significantly impact access to urgent medical treatment for patients in Mid Wales. Those who supported the proposals seem to have overlooked our rural geography and the fact that Montgomeryshire is larger in size than Greater London. 

Over the years, countless residents have benefited from this life-saving service, and they have generously donated to and fundraised for it. I know that we all recognise the vital role that the Air Ambulance service plays in our area.  

Following the decision, I also raised the decision by the Committee as an urgent question in the Senedd, as I firmly believed the Welsh Government, who are ultimately responsible, should intervene and the proposals be called in for a decision to be taken by Welsh Government Ministers, following further debate within the Senedd. Sadly, the calls I made were dismissed by the Health Minister, Eluned Morgan MS. She even confirmed that she believed that this new service would see improvements. 

Craig Willaims MP and I are working with several other people, on a cross-party basis. We met as a campaign team following the decision, and we agreed that the most appropriate course of action now is to begin the process of seeking a Judicial Review.  

This would be a complex and potentially costly process, and we have already begun to seek professional advice on the first stages of that journey.  

The reconfiguration of Air Ambulance Critical Care services in Wales, from a point before any of us had heard of the proposal to close the bases, has been a process filled with bias, misinformation and misdirection. A Judicial Review would allow a judge to re-evaluate the decision-making process and we believe it would bring much needed transparency and objectivity and examine to what extent the process delivered a predetermined outcome.

There will be phases during this process that will require the campaign to raise significant extra sums of money to pay the costs, and I hope that supporters of the campaigns to retain and enhance Critical Care services where they are so desperately needed will help with that, as they have done to-date. 

The fact that residents are being asking for any money at all is something that really saddens me.  However, without a formal review of this process, we know that people and communities in Mid and Northwest Wales will lose timely access to this essential service when they need it most, and we are left with little other option.

As a member of the campaign team, I can report that no additional funds are needed yet, as we are receiving preliminary advice through the generosity of those giving it. When the time comes to crowdfund, more details will come forward.  

In the meantime, if you feel that you have skills, knowledge or information that would be useful in these next steps, please do get in touch.

We’d like to thank supporters for their determination in seeing this through to a positive outcome. We also thank the Health Boards, clinicians, and other health professionals that have challenged or spoken out against the decision taken. We hope decision makers will re-consider this decision, and work to regain the trust of the communities of rural Wales without being forced to consider doing so by a judge.