In response to concerns from Swanage residents, a special committee is to be set up by Dorset Council to scrutinise proposals about the future of the ambulance car.
Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which funds the ambulance car, says it wishes to review the car’s future and will hold an engagement process before decisions are made.
Protests over the decision in 2020
This follows events in March 2020 when Dorset CCG said it was to withdraw the ambulance car and end its funding from April 2020.
However with the Covid pandemic unfolding, the car was given a stay of execution after Swanage Town Council and others protested about the decision.
The ambulance car is based in Swanage but serves the whole of Purbeck. Driven by a paramedic it responds quickly to emergency calls as it rarely takes patients to hospital, so unlike an ambulance stays within Purbeck.
Create a task and finish group
At the request of Swanage ward councillor Gary Suttle, Dorset Council will now create a task and finish group, which will be able to analyse and respond to any plans that Dorset CCG puts on the table as part of its engagement process.
This was agreed at Dorset Council’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 5th October 2021.
Importance of the ambulance car
Letters from local residents and Swanage Town Council about the importance of the ambulance car to Swanage and Purbeck were read out at the start of the meeting.
Swanage town clerk, Dr Martin Ayres on behalf of Swanage Town Council submitted a letter explaining why councillors believed a separate task and finish group was important to respond to Dorset CCG’s engagement plans. An excerpt from the letter said:
“There is much concern that once such a plan is announced, events will move very rapidly, such that the Dorset Council Cabinet and committee meeting timetable may not facilitate a comprehensive and timely response.
“There is also some doubt about whether Dorset CCG understands an ‘engagement’ to be what a local authority would normally consider a proper consultation.
“Given that the function of the paramedic car is truly a matter of life and death, will the Cabinet grant Swanage Town Council’s request that, in advance of any engagement/consultation plan being announced, the Cabinet will set up a task and finish group in order to examine such proposals as soon as they are available?
“This would not only ensure the task and finish group had sufficient time to consider the plan, but the group could also examine the relevant qualitative and quantitative data in order to inform Dorset Council’s response to Dorset CCG.”
“Truly amazing service”
This was backed up by a submission from Swanage resident Andrew Deacon, as well as Kevin Egan who suffered a stroke three years ago and highlighted the car’s importance. He said:
“Without any doubt had Martin and the car not been available my condition and the outcome would have been very different. I owe my life and my well-being to this truly amazing service.”
” Probably saved our son’s life”
Lawrie and Wilma Sandford said:
“The arrival of the paramedic within 10 minutes, and professional assessment that the situation was very serious, more so than we had realised, probably saved our son’s life or at the very least spared him from considerable life changing disabilities including paralysis.
“Had we called 999 and been referred to a call centre they would have been unable to ascertain the seriousness of the situation, and the reality is we could have waited hours for a response.”
“The car is really essential for us“
Hannah Attride said:
“We know that the car paramedic attends over 400 risk to life emergencies, just in Swanage, each year. My five year old daughter is one of these emergencies. She has complex epilepsy, and her seizures mean that she can stop breathing suddenly.
“Often when we call, the closest ambulance is over ten miles away, and we are being told to start CPR and compressions on our daughter. Then the ambulance car arrives, usually within two to three minutes, and the car paramedic takes over her care.
“So the car is really essential for us, and I am writing to support councillor Suttle’s request to Cabinet to please set up a task and finish group to properly consider this matter.”
“We hear you“
Councillor Laura Miller, as Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for adult social care and health responded to the written submissions to the Cabinet. She said:
“The decision (on the future of the ambulance car) does not lie with Dorset Council but I understand the strength of feeling about this amongst local people.
“We will, in response to councillor Gary Suttle and the other people who have asked the questions, be setting up a task and finish group to respond formally to the CCG consultation – that is the commitment I’m very happy to give.
“I would like to say that sometimes when a lot of people write in and a campaign gathers momentum that sometimes our responses can be seen to simply outline our position and simply outline what we are going to do.
“…But as someone who has lived all my life very rurally in Purbeck, there have been times when I have really needed such provision, particularly eight years ago when my daughter was very ill with leukaemia and we had blue lights coming to our house much more regularly than anyone would have wanted.
“I share that with you Cabinet, to reassure the residents of Swanage and Purbeck that these incredibly moving stories that people have taken the time to share with us are heard – we hear you.
“So really, all I can say is, we will set up a task and finish group, we will respond to the CCG and you have been heard.”
“Fight to keep the car“
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Swanage ward councillor Gary Suttle, who is also Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for finance, commercial and capital strategy, welcomed councillor Laura Miller’s commitment to setting up the group. He said:
“I am very pleased with the outcome and the undertaking from Dorset Council to form a task and finish group to look at any proposal, consultation or engagement from the Clinical Commissioning Group in respect of the car.
“It was important that Dorset Council acknowledged the importance of their role and the strong influence that they can bring to the table. Hence my request in the first place.
“It gave me some reassurance that the hard work by Swanage Town Council and the group of people who have given so much time to this campaign are supported by Dorset Council as a whole and not just by its local members from the old Purbeck District area.
“I know that councillor Laura Miller will work with us to fight to keep the car and her support as the Cabinet member most directly involved, is welcomed by all.”
Dorset CCG has confirmed that the ambulance car is under review and that there will be an engagement process before any proposals are put on the table.
To date, no timetable for the engagement process has been published.