Chance for residents to hear NHS bosses on Swanage Ambulance Car

Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which funds the Swanage-based ambulance car, is to give an update on the future of the car to Dorset councillors at an online public meeting, that anyone can watch.

It will be the first opportunity for residents to hear directly from Dorset CCG on why it is reviewing the ambulance car.

Dorset Council’s people and health scrutiny committee meeting will start at 10 am on Tuesday 8th June 2021 and can be viewed via an online link.

We love our ambulance car poster

Campaign posters can be seen across the towns and villages in Purbeck

Serves the whole of Purbeck, seven days a week, 24 hours a day

The ambulance car, also known as a rapid response vehicle (RRV), is staffed by a paramedic and serves the whole of Purbeck, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Plans by Dorset CCG to scrap the emergency services car emerged in February 2020, but it was given a reprieve at the start of the Covid pandemic. Now the issue is under review.

The last minute addition of the item to the agenda on Wednesday 2nd June 2021, meant that members of the public had less than 24 hours to submit questions to the committee, effectively meaning that few had a chance to do so.

Ambulance car at Incident in high street swanage

The ambulance car attending an incident in Swanage

“The service is in fact a matter of life and death for our community”

Councillor Gary Suttle who represents Swanage on Dorset Council said:

“The Swanage ambulance car is the single most important issue for residents – the service is in fact a matter of life and death for our community. I was informed late on Wednesday that the People and Health Scrutiny Committee at Dorset Council would have a presentation regarding the rapid response vehicle and that this was going to be taken as an urgent matter.

“For the last two days, I have tried to have this deferred, contacting the chief executive, legal team and the chair of the committee, putting forward that due to the late inclusion, the public have effectively been excluded from asking questions and I find this unacceptable. As of 4.30 pm on Friday 4th June, I have been unsuccessful.

“Although this agenda item is stated as merely an update before wider engagement, I want to ensure that this is not taken as part of that engagement. I will also be asking for a meeting of the committee at a large public location with the ambulance car and the ambulance service as a single item on the agenda. This will enable the residents to put forward their own points of view.

“There is so much statistical information regarding the vehicle, that it’s important that the committee members are fully informed before any support for any outcome is made by them. I also have issues with the terminology of engagement, I believe we all assumed there would be genuine consultation on this subject, where does that stand now?

“Lastly, this committee should point out that the old Dorset County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee was given an undertaking that the rapid response vehicle would be retained and not until hospital reorganisation had taken place, would such a review of the service take place, and that remains several years ahead. We ask that that commitment be adhered to.”

Rescue of climbers at Winspit
Swanage Coastguard

Like the coastguard vehicles, the ambulance car is a 4×4 vehicle so can drive to off-road locations like Winspit on the Purbeck coastline

“Unlike ambulances, the paramedic car is ‘tethered’ to Purbeck”

Swanage Town Council has pledged to campaign to retain the ambulance car, recognising its vital role in providing emergency services to Swanage and Purbeck residents and visitors.

Councillor Debby Monkhouse, who leads on the Swanage Town Council Emergency Health Services working party said:

“I am hugely disappointed in the way that Dorset CCG has brought this crucial issue to the attention of Dorset Council. Real engagement is about being transparent and offering all the facts to our elected councillors, not by pushing it onto an agenda at the last minute and providing a briefing paper that misses out important information.

“The car is based in Swanage, it is used more in Swanage than in the rest of Purbeck put together, and it is one of the Swanage-based emergency resources that Dorset CCG made a minuted promise to Dorset Council to ‘fully maintain’.

“The briefing paper suggests that there are three 24 hour ambulances, when in fact there is just one in Swanage and one in Wareham, with an additional ambulance based at Wareham for 10 hours a day.

“The information submitted to councillors from the CCG misses out so much. Unlike ambulances, the paramedic car is ‘tethered’ to Purbeck because it does not routinely take patients to hospital, so is regularly first on the scene.

“The car paramedic treated over 1,875 Purbeck patients in 2019, attending to approximately a third of all people in Purbeck who were in category 1 imminent danger of death. Our ambulance crews are outstanding but the reality is that they just can’t assist if they are waiting outside A and E in Poole, Bournemouth or Dorchester, as they often have to do.

“The stats for 2019 also show that the paramedic car was called upon more in Swanage than anywhere else in Purbeck, so that’s where resources need to be targeted. And we need the resources based in Swanage because we have the longest journeys to A and E.

“The car is faster than the ambulance, it’s a 4×4 so it can get to places the ambulance cannot reach like Dancing Ledge and Winspit, it treats 50 per cent of patients at the scene saving scarce double crewed ambulance resources, as well as supporting GP home visits and providing emergency overnight cover when Swanage Hospital is closed.

“The paramedic car means so much to Purbeck residents because it does so much for our community, based as we are, so far from main hospitals. The whole idea of scrapping the car really surprised us at the town council, because why would you want to get rid of something that saves so many lives – our mums, dads, brothers, sisters…?”

Ambulance car banner

Campaign banner in Corfe Castle

“Our job is to get the best for Purbeck”

Member of Parliament for South Dorset, Richard Drax said:

“A lot of passion is attached to this issue but until we see what the Dorset CCG is offering – and they haven’t told me yet – then it’s hard to comment at this stage.

“I’ve been assured that there’s no reduction in the funding and nothing is off the table, including the retention of the ambulance car.

“I’ve been told that one of the options is to have three 24 hour ambulances for Swanage and Wareham. There’s currently two and a half – one of the ambulances based at Wareham is staffed for 10 hours not 24.

“Our job is to get the best for Purbeck. When we see what is on the table, I’m hoping that the options will come with the data and the evidence – then we can evaluate what they are offering.”

Watch the Dorset Council meeting

Dorset Council’s people and health scrutiny committee meeting starts at 10 am on Tuesday 8th June 2021. The ambulance car update is the 10th item on the agenda under urgent items.

The meeting is on Microsoft Teams, so to watch it, viewers will have to download the software. It can be viewed anonymously.

Here’s the link to watch the committee meeting

View the agenda

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