Ahead of the first public meeting this Tuesday, Montgomeryshire’s MS and MP say going to events will help protect the future of Welshpool base
Russell George MS and Craig Williams MP are stressing the importance for local people to attend upcoming public meetings to secure the future of the Welsh Air Ambulance base in Welshpool.
The NHS Wales Emergency Ambulance Services Committee (EASC), which plans NHS ambulance services on behalf of the whole of Wales, is now holding public meetings in the area to inform people about the current service and future considerations.
There will be two sessions this Tuesday 4th April at The Monty Club in Newtown (11 Broad Street, SY16 2LU) at 17:30-18:30 and 19:00-20:00.
A further two sessions will take place on Wednesday 26th April in Welshpool Town Hall (High Street, SY21 7JQ) at 17:30-18:30 and 19:00-20:00.
Other meetings are also taking place in the form of public ‘drop in’ events, and virtual public meetings. Mr George and Mr Williams have also expressed frustration that the first dates and locations were published at short notice.
During 2022, people from across Mid Wales were surprised and disappointed by a proposal that Welshpool’s Air Ambulance Base could be closed. In the latter half of the year following the revealing of the proposals, Montgomeryshire’s MS and MP worked closely with campaign groups and others to campaign for the retention of the Mid Wales base, and to ensure there was a proper engagement process and scrutiny.
The politicians have said that, to date, there has been no information that supports the original proposal that the Welshpool base should close.
Following strong local campaigning, at the end of last year, it was agreed the original plans would be paused, with scrutiny of the plans, and new proposals would be brought forward in conjunction with an engagement process. Since then, there has been a lengthy period of waiting for the public engagement process to begin with several false starts.
In February came news that the lease on the Welshpool base would be extended to 2026. To ensure that the base remains open into the future, Mr George and Mr Williams are stressing the importance of taking part in the engagement process which is about to start.
Commenting, Russell George MS said:
“Whilst we have confirmation that the air ambulance’s lease at the Welshpool base has been extended for three years, I knew it was merely a stay of execution and the battle to keep the service in place beyond 2026 would continue.
“In Mid Wales, we have an older population, poorer road connectivity, and long distances to major hospitals, and it is critical that we have an Air Ambulance serving us here, this is something the people of Mid Wales feel so strongly about.
“But we all need to go further and make our case to the Welsh NHS service that will make the final decision, which means as many of us as possible turning up at these meetings and demonstrating to the powers-that-be how important keeping a reliable service is to the people of Mid Wales. I have seen no information that supports the original proposal that the Welshpool base should close”
Craig Williams MP added:
“I am truly grateful for all the work undertaken so far by campaigners, but Russell and I are joining other campaigners, in urging the public to attend the local meetings. We need to make sure that decision-makers are in no doubt about how we feel and how important the air ambulance service is to us in Mid Wales.
“What is very frustrating is that despite the enormous outcry that came from the local community after initial plans for the base’s closure were exposed, the public meetings to hear what people think have been arranged at such short notice without the degree of transparency we should expect.
“It is essential now that these meetings are well attended by everyone who has an interest in keeping the base open because we cannot rest on our laurels just because the lease is secured until 2026 – the future beyond that is still uncertain if we do not make the most of this engagement process.”