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Saturday, 26 July 2014

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Campaign grows to stop ambulance cuts in Carlisle

Opposition to proposed cuts in ambulance cover in Carlisle is gathering momentum, with a series of meetings and a petition organised.

Michael Oliver photo
Mike Oliver

The money-saving move would see night-time cover cut by a third in Carlisle, while also affecting cover in Penrith.

Tonight members of the health union Unison will meet in the city, with Lee Sherriff, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Carlisle, invited to attend.

The union has already criticised the move. On Tuesday about 24 Unison members attended a meeting at Carlisle Ambulance Station.

Mike Oliver, the union’s convener for Cumbria, said they have also arranged to meet with John Stevenson, Carlisle’s Conservative MP, later this month and members of Eden Council will review the proposed cuts on Tuesday.

He said that frontline services should have been the last area to face cuts.

“We’ve seen some of the comments that have come off the back of the News & Star story,” he said.

“Cutting frontline services should be the last thing that you do.”

Mr Oliver said campaigners planned to raise awareness further by encouraging people to sign a petition against the proposed move.

Under the proposed savings the number of ambulances on duty in Carlisle at night would be cut from three to two, while Penrith would lose a Rapid Response Vehicle between 2am and 7am.

As a whole the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) is meeting the national target – to get to at least 75 per cent of emergencies within eight minutes.

However, figures show that is not the case in all areas. During the last financial year in north Cumbria only 65.5 per cent to 70 per cent of Red 1 and Red 2 life-threatening emergency calls were dealt with within the eight-minute target.

Alan Stuttard, deputy chief executive and director of finance at NWAS, said it was facing an “increasingly challenging financial environment” and they had to look at how efficiencies could be made while making patient care a priority.

NWAS needs to save £13.8 million during the current financial year, including £6m from corporate services, £6m from emergency services with £2.1m from the frontline and £1m from patient transport.

Mr Stuttard said: “We are currently undertaking a review of services and it is possible that this may result in the loss of posts throughout the region. We have already reduced the executive team by making two posts redundant.

“Any removal of services is done following a quality impact assessment, as the trust strives to ensure that the high standard of care we currently provide to patients is maintained. At this stage, these proposals are still under discussion.”

He said the service was discussing the savings needed with staff and unions.

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