Swanage Councillors pledge action to retain the Purbeck Paramedic Car

In response to residents’ concerns about the possible scrapping of the Purbeck Paramedic Car, Swanage Town Council has promised to make every effort to prevent its withdrawal and says it would like to meet with South Western Ambulance Service Trust (SWAST) and other parties to discuss the car’s future.

At the Swanage Town Council full council meeting on Monday 15th March 2021, there were a number of impassioned speeches by members of the public in support of retaining the paramedic car, which provides round the clock emergency care to Swanage and the surrounding villages.

The service has been in place since 2008, when the overnight provision at the Swanage Hospital minor injuries unit was closed. The car also provides out of hours cover and home visits for the local GP surgeries.

Unlike ambulances, it does not take patients to hospital in Dorchester, Poole or Bournemouth, so it is able to get quickly to Purbeck residents suffering medical emergencies.

Purbeck Paramedic Car

The Purbeck Paramedic Car called to an emergency in Corfe Castle

“I ask councillors to urgently help save this service”

Speaking at the beginning of the council meeting, chair of the Swanage Area Forum and a trustee of the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust, Melvyn Norris said:

“The paramedic car not only and crucially, saves lives but is able to treat 50 percent of patients at the scene, relieving pressure on scarce ambulance resources and it helps to mend the widening gaps on our services, providing overnight cover for our community.

“We also have to bear in mind the likely planned increase in population and expected rise – this year at least – in holiday visitors.

“While the Dorset health authority and South Western Ambulance Service play poker over who is going to pay the cost of this beloved and irreplaceable service, I would like to remind everyone it is not the fault of the Swanage and surrounding villages’ residents that the National Health Service has been fragmented with the various providers competing against each other for resources, rather than concentrating on providing us all with an NHS that we have paid for and now need and deserve. I ask councillors to urgently help save this service.”

“This threat is increasing as this financial year draws to a close”

Swanage resident and former nurse, Thelma Deacon added:

“In February 2020 a resident informed the council that South Western Ambulance Service Trust intended to withdraw the car at the end of March 2020 and this was confirmed in writing by the then SWAST chief executive.

“Everyone has worked hard to save this vital service however the reality is that the car has been under threat ever since and this threat is increasing as this financial year draws to a close. Could councillors please advise what urgent action the town council is planning to take to safeguard this service?”

Save our paramedic car poster

Campaigners are asking residents to display posters in their windows

“Its callout has resulted in so many lives saved”

East Stoke resident and regular visitor to Swanage, Chris Bradey also referred to this year’s influx of visitors and said:

“My concern is whether our visitors and residents can be assured prompt and professional help in medical emergency call outs. We know our excellent ambulance service is sorely stretched and the ambulance car is such a valuable resource and its callout has resulted in so many lives saved.

“I’d ask what action is the council going to take to preserve this valuable service, which is such a reassurance to visitors and residents alike?”

Dismay that the paramedic car could be withdrawn

Councillor Debby Monkhouse proposed a motion to show how united the council was over its dismay that the paramedic car could be withdrawn at the end of March 2021. She said:

“Councillors will know that we have had an email from the chair of the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) suggesting that the car is not in imminent danger of withdrawal, however we have also heard from a number of sources that the car IS in imminent danger of withdrawal.

“Of the sources that have suggested that the money for the car is running out, we have the public governor of SWAST, who said the money was secure until the end of March (this year).

“We have the same resident who told us a year ago that the car was going, by which time we’d had no engagement from either the CCG or the ambulance trust. When the ambulance trust chief executive was contacted, he confirmed that the car was indeed intended to go at the end of March last year.

“Last but not least we’ve had the Purbeck GP lead Dr James Jackson, who emailed me on the 29th February to say that the provision of the Purbeck Car by SWAST and the CCG is due to finish in the near future.

“He went on to say that funding will be made available to the Purbeck GP network to provide a replacement service and we had arranged to speak on the phone about the replacement service.

“We spoke on the 2nd March, at which point he’d been asked to put a replacement service in place but only to cover for GP home visits and he confirmed that the service would not cover emergency response functions of the paramedic car. So we’re in a difficult position where we’re told it’s not going, but we’re told from a number of reliable sources that at the very least, it’s very insecure and that the crisis is imminent.”

Incident in high street swanage

The paramedic car called out to an emergency in the High Street in Swanage

Proposed motion was agreed unanimously

The proposed motion was agreed unanimously by Swanage’s councillors. It said:

“Swanage Town Council recognises that the retention of the paramedic car is vital for Swanage, and that its removal would be a threat to the lives of local people.

“This council resolves to make every effort to prevent the withdrawal of the paramedic car and to urgently contact the MP for South Dorset, Dorset Council’s People and Health Scrutiny Committee, South Western Ambulance Service Trust and Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group to secure its retention.

“In order to try to influence the stakeholders involved, this council will also request a meeting with the South Western Ambulance Service Trust and other interested parties to clarify the costs of maintaining this service and the funding options available.”

Councillor Debby Monkhouse added:

“My thought is once it’s gone, it will be extremely difficult to get the car back and I’m hoping that we might be able to have a seat at the table in the discussion about what the funding options are.”

Save our paramedic car campaigners

Campaigners are organising a campaign to make it clear how much residents love their paramedic car

“No decisions will be made before we have the opportunity to work with local stakeholders”

A spokesperson for NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group told Swanage.News:

“We are aware that people are interested in the future of the Rapid Response Vehicle and would like to reassure people that no decisions will be made before we have the opportunity to work with local stakeholders and representatives to ensure any service meets the needs of the local population. Whilst this process is in progress there are no plans to remove the existing service.”

Save our paramedic car campaigners and dog

Action plan

Several local groups, including Swanage Town Council, have come together to organise a campaign and an action plan to keep the car.

  • There is a petition with over 4,800 signatures asking the NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group to continue to fund the car. To sign the petition go to the campaign website
  • Also residents are being asked to display a poster in their window to show their support. To request a poster, email swanageambulancecar@gmail.com
  • Residents are being asked to share their experiences of using the service by emailing personal accounts to Councillor Debby Monkhouse or chair of the Swanage Area Forum, Melvyn Norris

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