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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Campaign stepped up to stop cuts to north Cumbria's ambulance cover

Opponents battling proposed cuts to north Cumbria’s ambulance cover are stepping up protests with a petition and social media campaign.

The proposed cuts would see night cover reduced by a third in Carlisle as well as hitting cover in Penrith.

Members of the health union Unison met in Carlisle and Lee Sherriff, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the city, went along.

Mike Oliver, the union’s convener for Cumbria, said that they had also arranged to meet John Stevenson, Carlisle’s Conservative MP, later this month.

Members of Eden Council will review the proposed cuts tomorrow.

He described the proposals, which would directly hit frontline services, as “madness” and added: “I can’t understand the logic of doing it. It should be a last resort – it shouldn’t happen.”

Mr Oliver said that the public reaction had been supportive and added: “The patients do realise the impact – they have to wait now.

“It’s unacceptable, you don’t want to cut resources, it will make things worse.”

Under the proposed savings the number of ambulances on duty in Carlisle at nights will be cut from three to two, while Penrith will lose a Rapid Response Vehicle for five hours a night, 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 within the eight-minute target.

Mr Oliver said that members were hoping to launch their petition this week and added: “We will be campaigning on the streets of Carlisle and Penrith.”

Miss Sherriff said she found the meeting informative and has promised to help with the campaign.

She said: “They are worried about the safety aspects – that’s what came through loud and clear. They have got genuine concerns.”

The politician added that Cumbria was hampered because of the local geography, which made it different to the rest of the UK, and it had to be treated differently.

“If it is not hitting targets now how is it going to hit targets with fewer ambulances? They can see the danger from a work perspective as well as a personal perspective.”

She said that campaigners needed to get public support behind them because response times were important. “The time can be essential – it can be a matter of life and death.”

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

He added: “We have met with the unions to discuss what savings we propose to make and possible ways in which we can achieve these and will continue to do so as we progress.

“Once plans are finalised, we intend to fully discuss these with our external partners and stakeholders.”

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