Health bosses announce they will not withdraw Swanage Ambulance Car

It’s just been confirmed that the Swanage Ambulance Car has been saved from being scrapped and will continue to serve Purbeck.

This is welcome news to campaigners who have fought hard to save the service, which can respond quickly to emergency calls and reduce the time that patients in Swanage have to wait for an ambulance or receive treatment.

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“The service will remain as a 24/7 car”

In an open letter to residents, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group and the South Western Ambulance Service (SWASFT) write:

“Following our listening exercise, we can confirm that the service will remain as a 24/7 car and will continue to provide a valuable service.”

The Purbeck Paramedic Car

Unexpected U-turn

It’s not clear what has prompted the unexpected U-turn but discussions have been ongoing to work more closely with the local GPs, as the car also covers the local doctors’ home visiting service.

Over the last two years, figures obtained through a freedom of information request revealed that while the car had not been officially withdrawn it was increasingly being left unstaffed and effectively not available to attend to patients.

During this period, waiting times for an ambulance response have greatly increased in Swanage and across Purbeck.

In the last few months, it’s understood that the car has only been available for a few days a month.

The ambulance car service is usually driven by a paramedic and can respond quickly to emergency calls in Swanage and the surrounding area, as it rarely takes patients to hospital, unlike an ambulance, so it can stay within Purbeck.

Ambulance car paramedic treating woman who had fallen over
Faye Rhead

“Improve the staffing of the car moving forward”

Addressing the concerns that the car hasn’t been staffed, the letter continues:

“As previously stated, SWASFT, along with all health and social care providers, is continuing to be impacted by the inevitable increases of staff absences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We would like to provide assurances to the communities that we are working hard to address this and to improve the staffing of the car moving forward.”

The full details of the deal have yet to be disclosed and much will depend on the level of paramedic staffing provided, as to whether the full service is restored.

Campaigners, led by Swanage Town Council councillor Debby Monkhouse have fought tirelessly to save the ambulance car and to keep it fully staffed by paramedics.

Save our paramedic car campaigners
Save our paramedic car campaigners and dog

A huge campaign was launched across Swanage and Purbeck to save the ambulance car

Full text of open letter

Openen Letter from NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT)

Dear residents,

We would like to take the opportunity to provide an update on the Purbeck Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) – also known as the Purbeck/Swanage Ambulance Car.

As many of you will know, we have been exploring the views of local people about the service through our ongoing listening exercise. Throughout this time funding for the car has continued and has not been reduced.

We started this listening exercise some time ago; but have not been able to move forward earlier due to the NHS’ national and local pressures, priorities to sustain the COVID-19 response, the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme across Dorset and the recovery of services.

Due to this, it has taken us a little longer than we had hoped to progress our listening activities, where we received valuable local feedback, insight and opinion regarding ongoing provision of the Purbeck Car.

We’d like to thank people for their patience and understanding.

We know how important it is to the communities of Purbeck and Swanage to have reassurance around the ongoing provision of healthcare services in the area.

Following our listening exercise, we can confirm that the service will remain as a 24/7 car and will continue to provide a valuable service.

As previously stated, SWASFT, along with all health and social care providers, are continuing to be impacted by the inevitable increases of staff absences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to provide assurances to the communities that we are working hard to address this and to improve the staffing of the car moving forward.

NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) would like to thank everyone who has been involved, along with those who have given their views.

Thank you,

Sue Sutton, Programme Director Urgent & Emergency Care – NHS Dorset CCG
Nick Reynolds, County Commander, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

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