Following the publication of a consultation paper on the re-organisation of the ambulance service in Hampshire, Sir George met Neil Cook, the Divisional Clinical Team Manager for North Hampshire and Irene Clark, Mayor of Whitchurch, at Whitchurch Ambulance Station.
"There is understandable concern when people in Andover and Whitchurch pick up the local paper and read that their local ambulance stations are to close. They want to know what is going on and that, if they need an ambulance, one will be available."
"Neil explained that ambulances responding to 999 calls are not usually based at a station, but at strategic points in the county near where their services are likely to be required. The strategy the Ambulance Service is looking at is based on closing the conventional ambulance stations and instead having a central "hub" at Basingstoke, with a number of " bases" in the north of the county. These bases could be at medical centres, Andover hospital, or any other centre where staff could have access to rest facilities, communication facilities etc. The ambulances would be kept at the hub, where staff would have to report for work."
"Neil believes that the proposed system will offer a more flexible and responsive service, and the patient will not notice the difference."
Sir George said that, while the proposed system could well work, it would confront many ambulance workers with a longer journey to work. "At the moment, locally based employees can report for duty at either Whitchurch or Andover. Under the proposed system, they will have to get to Basingstoke to collect the ambulance and then possibly go back to Andover for their shift; and then go back to Basingstoke when the shift ends - and then home again."
Sir George said it would be crucial to have more details before coming to a final conclusion. "There is as yet no site for the hub, nor the necessary planning consent; nor do we know where the local bases might be."