Russell George MS has asked the Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS, to indicate her willingness to increase funding to the Air Ambulance Service, ahead of further options for the future of the service coming forward.
Stephen Harrhy, the Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner was tasked with leading an independent Review, Phase One of the Review’s engagement ended last month, on June 16th and Mr Harrhy emphasised that no decision has already been taken following the initial EMRTS Service Proposal in 2022.
The public engagement began in March 2023, and has focussed on listening to comments, queries and gathering of feedback on how to develop options to further improve the air ambulance service in Wales.
One of the major controversies of the original proposals was the closure of the Welshpool and Caernarfon bases which has caused strong opposition from communities in the region. Russell George MS, along with others, has been campaigning to secure the Air Ambulance base in mid Wales, and this week questioned the Minister for Health to ask if the Welsh Government would be willing to financially support the service if new proposals came forward that would propose keeping the original bases, whilst also adding additional bases in other areas of Wales.
Speaking during Health Ministers questions, Mr George asked Eluned Morgan MS:
‘‘Can I ask you, Minister, if a proposal came forward that retained the current bases with suggestions of further bases that were appropriate in other areas of Wales that would need a greater financial resource, would that be something that you'd be willing to consider?’’
In response to Mr George, Eluned Morgan MS said:
‘‘We are not in a position to start committing to resources that are already difficult to find in the system. So, it will be difficult for me to do that. Obviously, I'll wait until I see what comes forward. If there's a good clinical case for it, then we'll have to obviously consider that.’’
Currently, the service is part funding by the Welsh Government, in an agreement between a service within the Welsh NHS and the Air Ambulance Charity.
Commenting after Senedd questions, Mr George said:
‘‘It was a huge surprise when proposals came forward last August to close bases in Welshpool and Caernarfon, with the proposals based on dubious data.
The Wales Air Ambulance service is a greatly important service for us in mid Wales. We are told that the proposals to reconfigure services across Wales are not about cost savings, but it is also suggested that the service could be better and reach more people if base locations are changed.
Ahead of further options coming forward later this year, I am now simply asking the Minister to indicate her willingness to increase financial support for the service, which may allow for both the service to do more, open additional bases across Wales, and retain important bases such as the location in Welshpool. Essentially, this would be the best outcome and archive what all involved want.
There was hope within the Ministers response to me, I hope her indication of at least being willing to increase funding, if there was a good clinical case for it, will be factored into options that the Chief Ambulance Services Commissioner, Stephen Harrhy, is now considering.’’