Save Our Mid Wales Air Ambulance Base

Updated as of 25th October 2022

Mid Wales deserves the best emergency services

There remains huge concern with proposals to move the Wales Air Ambulance base from Welshpool. This is an invaluable service provided by Wales Air Ambulance and the Welsh NHS to mid Wales.

There are significant concerns and doubts about the proposal to centralise the north and mid Wales service at a single site with the potential closure of the base in Welshpool.

Since August, when the plans were announced, we have seen a huge campaign launched including a petition that reached thousands of signatures in just a very short time.

I, like many others, have deep concerns about how this proposal will strengthen safe emergency medical cover in mid Wales, which has so many rural and hard to reach areas.

We now need openness, transparency, and full scrutiny and then analysis of the data and modelling that underpins the proposals from the Welsh NHS Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (known as EMRTS Cymru) and The Welsh Air Ambulance Trust.

In August, EMRTS Cymru and The Welsh Air Ambulance Trust first announced plans to reconfigure their service, which included the concerning news that they propose to close the base in Welshpool. I, along with many others, were very surprised and disappointed by this announcement, as the Wales Air Ambulance service is vitally important to us in mid Wales.

The Trust stated in August that its plans will improve the numbers of missions which they are able to deliver across the whole of Wales, including an additional 26 in Montgomeryshire. They detail in a statement issued on August 25th (click here to view) Public Announcement (25 August 2022) | Welsh Air Ambulance Charitable Trust (walesairambulance.com) that extensive analysis has been carried out to create the plans.

In August, Craig Williams MP and I first met with the Trust to raise both our and residents' concerns. The Trust had committed to a “genuine consultation” with residents. We have asked for the data and analysis used to inform the proposals to be shared so they can be fully and properly scrutinised. It is disappointing that neither the Trust, EMRTS Cymru, nor Welsh Government (which is ultimately responsible for all the services within the Welsh NHS) have been forthcoming in responding to our requests.

I have raised my strong concerns in the Senedd with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, pointing out that mid Wales has suffered for many years from poor access to health services. Also, I have stressed that due to not having a district general hospital and with poor road connections, it is vital that we continue to have good access to emergency services such as the Air ambulance service, which also includes the important road vehicle, based at Welshpool.

Further, I have called on the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, to make the data public. Despite firstly informing me in the Senedd that the data does not belong to the Welsh Government (NHS Wales) and that the data belongs to the Charity, the Charity has confirmed that the data belongs to the service within the Welsh NHS. Following this information, I again raised the issue with the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government seem to no longer deny having responsibility for the data, and then stated that the data 'isn't suitable for publication'.

Whilst the Trust and Welsh NHS (EMRTS Cymru) believe that they have a case to close the Welshpool base, we have not yet seen the evidence supporting their proposal.

Both Craig Williams MP and I launched a survey asking for your views. Thank you to all of those who have filled in our survey. It is helpful for us to be able to present, to the organisations involved, the many voices and views of local people as possible. Thousands have replied to the survey, which shows how strongly opposed our county is to the proposed changes.   
We know from the responses to the survey so far that most residents, who have given so willingly to the Trust in the past, will donate less in the future if the Welshpool base closes. Understandably, people want to support charities based locally and we have presented this concern to the Trust.

The Charity Made a further statement in October  (Public Announcement (17 October 2022) | Welsh Air Ambulance Charitable Trust (walesairambulance.com) and it now seems clear that the Welsh NHS (EMRTS Cymru) are leading the proposals.

The EMRTS Cymru website states that the Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner, Stephen Harrhy, is now leading the process. It remains unclear as to if or when the data that sits behind the decision will be published, and what the approach will be to consulting and engaging with the public.  The link to the website can be found here Service Development Proposal - Emergency Ambulance Services Committee (nhs.wales) It may be that information on this page and the link will be updated, as further information becomes available.

I thank to the many people who signed the petition that Cllr Joy Jones started in August, and the huge effort from the SAVE Welshpool Air Ambulance – Welshpool Base volunteers. Many others have also helped obtain further signatures to the petition and sponsored or donated money to pay for signs campaigning against the proposals.

We in mid Wales deserve better health and emergency services, and I will continue to work with all that support that aim.

As the Welsh Government is responsible for the Welsh NHS, I will continue to call on the First Minister to release and publish all the relevant information and demand that there is a formal consultation on their proposal.