Campaign to Save Welshpool’s Wales Air Ambulance Base

Campaign to Save Welshpool’s Wales Air Ambulance Base

Updated: April 2024

From the time when plans to close air bases at Welshpool and Caernarfon were haphazardly leaked out in August 2022, the ensuing consultation and process has been incredibly poor. 

Earlier this March, the final report and review of the Air Ambulance service from the Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner was made public, which included his recommendations to close Welshpool and Caernafon’s Air Ambulance bases. Clearly, that flew in the face of the views and strength of feeling from rural communities across Mid and North Wales. But recommendations in his report were not the final decision, just recommendations.

After three engagement stages and powerful local campaigning, with over 30,000 signatures on petitions and 45 public meetings, we were all expecting, (after a delay in the decision just before Christmas), to eventually find out the fate for the two bases, when the committee with the responsibility for making the final decision met on 28th March.

On the day of the proposed meeting, there was uncertainty if it would actually take place. It transpired that the meeting went ahead, but shockingly it was held in private,  I cannot think of any logical reason why this meeting could not have been held in public, or at least been made available to listen to the discussions and decisions following the meeting.

We were advised that a final decision would not be made at this meeting, but will be made later in April, and that this will decided by a new committee replacing the current one. The final decision will be made by a committee, which will include the chief executive officers from the seven health boards across Wales.

This is an issue of such importance to the people of Mid and North Wales, the lack of information around decision taking and transparency regarding this final stage has been appalling.

I have had conversations with the CEOs of health boards in the affected areas in recent weeks, to further emphasize the key points as to why they should reject the commissioner’s recommendations. Even based on the analysis referred to in the commissioner’s report, the small gains that are claimed to be made are very marginal.

There continues to be much campaigning, and in March, following publication of the review,  I questioned the Welsh Government Health Minister, Eluned Morgan MS and asked her to intervene. I also questioned what impact the engagement process had, pointing out that many feel like this was a done deal from the start. 

I continue to have regular meetings and conversations with other local campaigners, as we seek to work together on a cross party basis. Craig Williams MP and I also made representations to Health Boards with strong views why they should reject the recommendations, and I coordinated a letter to the CEOs of health boards which was signed on a cross-party basis by 12 Members of Welsh and UK Parliaments.

We are now waiting for further news following the secretive meeting held in March, and as part of a wider campaign team we will keep up the pressure over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, as a local campaign group, we are considering the possibility of undertaking a legal challenge to contest the process and its legitimacy if closure is decided. This challenge, called a Judicial Review, would need to be funded and so future public support may be needed. In addition to the inadequate and chaotic decision making, and with recommendations to close the bases, a legal challenge would also demonstrate that the process has been thoroughly mishandled from the initial leak of proposals to present day. There has been a fundamental lack of confidence from the public in the impartiality and impact of the engagement process. 

I also want to put on record my thanks to the many who continue to support the local campaign, including some who wish to remain unnamed, but have been such a support to us as a local campaign group