Sir George expresses deep concern at proposals for Ambulance Service
1 Jun 2005
These are my initial thoughts on the document published by the Hampshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

1. The document confirms what I have been saying for some time – namely that the local NHS has been starved of resources. The condition of the current stations, we are told, is “highly unsatisfactory” because of the maintenance backlog. Page 12 says “Due to the Trust’s financial deficit position and insufficient revenue funding to meet the level of need, only minimal maintenance is currently being carried out and a significant maintenance backlog has arisen.” This undermines what we are continually being told by Ministers that the NHS has had record funding and is in good shape. It confirms the need to review the formula that distributes cash around England, so Hampshire gets a fair share.
2. The figures for the new strategy are not available, so we don’t know if it will be cost effective. All the sites for the proposed new depots will have to be negotiated and planning consent sought. We are not told what the cost might be. Will the new set up be any cheaper? Will it be possible to buy the three proposed new depots from the proceeds of the existing stations that are being disposed of?
3. Will the Ambulance Service get “peppercorn rents” for the serviced standby points that will replace many ambulance stations, or will they be expected to pay market rents?
4. I would like to see the case made for a fourth depot at Andover – on a site which the NHS already owns – the existing station. (This Station is well located – with easy access to the Town Centre and to the ring road)
5. The North West part of the county is a long way from the nearest proposed depot at Basingstoke, and the staff who currently live and work in Andover will be confronted with a lot of travel. They will have to drive to Basingstoke to clock on; drive all the way back to do their shift; drive back to Basingstoke at the end of their shift and then drive home. A depot at Andover would also be more convenient for staff based at Whitchurch and for covering the northern stretch of the A34 and the A303 west of Basingstoke.
6. Do we really need to build a brand new HQ? Why is there, as we are told in the document, an accommodation shortage in HQ as a consequence of increases in staff at all levels? (This confirms one of the main criticisms of the NHS, namely that admin staff are growing faster than front line staff)
7. We need to get the balance right between the efficiencies of centralisation and the economies of scale, and a locally based service. I am not convinced that the document gets this balance right.

"I am asking the Ambulance Trust to look at a four depot solution - with the fourth depot being at Andover on the site they already own. None of the land for the other three proposed depots is owned by the NHS, whereas the land for a depot in Andover is readily available, collocated with the hospital.
The three depot solution leaves the North West section of the County out on a limb, serviced from a site south of Basingstoke. The amount of time that Andover based staff would spend travelling is of great concern to me. Those thinking of a career in the ambulance service locally will not welcome all this driving."
"Whatever we end up with, there must be no reduction in the cover offered to Andover and the surrounding villages; in other words, we must have at least the same amount of ambulances on duty at any one point as we have at the moment. If, at the end of the day, the site of Andover ambulance station is sold, then the proceeds should be invested in improved health services locally and the ambulance service should be incorporated in an appropriate new building on the campus of the hospital."
"Andover should not be a "serviced standby" facility. In addition to the facilities proposed, there should be the ability for staff to report for duty, to change and to shower, and to be able to wait for calls in reasonable surroundings - as they can at the present."
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