Temporary reprieve granted for Purbeck Paramedic Car

The South Western Ambulance Service Trust (SWAST) has confirmed that it won’t scrap the Purbeck Paramedic Car without first consulting with local organisations and residents.

In response to a letter from Swanage Town Council, the SWAST chief executive, William Warrender has said that the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which funds the car, will be leading on the public engagement on the paramedic car’s future, supported by SWAST, early in 2021.

The Purbeck Paramedic Car

The Purbeck Paramedic Car arrived approximately 30 minutes before the ambulance from Wareham, was able to get to this emergency call in Corfe Castle

Campaigning against its removal

This will come as a relief to Swanage Town Council and surrounding parishes, who have been campaigning against its removal, since first learning informally in February 2020 that the service was threatened.

Against the backdrop of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the paramedic car was retained but since then there has been no assurance until now, that it wouldn’t be suddenly withdrawn without local consultation.

In the letter from Swanage Town Council to SWAST, the town clerk, Martin Ayres put the case for the vital importance of retaining the paramedic car.

Swanage ambulance station

Swanage Ambulance Station in Queen’s Road

“In an emergency, the car paramedic is most likely to get to Swanage within the Ambulance Trust’s target response time of 7 minutes”

He wrote:

“The ambulance resources based here are one 24/7 ambulance with two staff, and the Swanage 24/7 Paramedic Car, staffed by one paramedic. The Swanage ambulance is regularly outside Swanage, either because it is taking a patient to hospital or because it is needed elsewhere in the county.

“To take one Swanage resident to Poole hospital means the ambulance is away for at least an hour and a half, and there are 1,400 emergency admissions to Poole Hospital each year from Swanage and local villages. The paramedic car is the faster vehicle, and, unlike the ambulance, which can be outside Swanage taking patients to hospital, the car remains in Purbeck.

“In an emergency, the car paramedic is most likely to get to Swanage within the Ambulance Trust’s target response time of 7 minutes, giving him or her the best chance to save life. In addition to maintaining life until the ambulance arrives, the paramedic can treat at the scene the 50 percent of patients who do not need to go to hospital, and s/he also supports Purbeck GPs with their home visits.

“The paramedic also continues to provide overnight cover for Swanage and neighbouring parishes. The paramedic car was allocated to Swanage in 2008 when the Cottage Hospital Minor Injuries Unit first closed overnight, in recognition of the distance from Swanage to Poole Hospital.”

An Emergency Health Services working party

The councillors on Swanage Town Council have now set up an Emergency Health Services working party to ensure that Swanage’s geographical position as Dorset’s longest cul-de-sac is not forgotten when health service resources are allocated.

On Friday 12th December 2020, the working party met with Dorset South MP, Richard Drax and he gave his support to the retention of the Purbeck Paramedic Car. The group also discussed its wider concerns and asked for his support to press for further changes. This includes:

  • The introduction of Accident and Emergency Local, a daytime A&E at Poole Hospital, following the move of the full accident and emergency department to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital
  • The reinstatement of the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at Dorset County Hospital (DCH). This was downgraded in 2017 however with the loss of the maternity department at Poole Hospital, Purbeck expectant mothers are advised to go to DCH, increasing its use. Otherwise all women in Swanage delivering under 32 weeks will have to go to the NICU at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, which takes longer than the recommended safe journey time for maternity emergencies of 30 to 45 minutes
  • For Dorset CCG to increase ambulance resources for areas worst affected by loss of services from Poole Hospital. Swanage and Purbeck are the worst affected in terms of journey times to care
  • For Dorset CCG and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council to consider what will be done to address the removal from the plans of a new spur road from the west, off the A338 into Royal Bournemouth Hospital, which was aimed at reducing emergency journey times

Public consultation

It’s not yet known exactly when the public consultation on the future of the Purbeck Paramedic Car will start or how long it will take.

Ahead of the public consultation, the Swanage Town Council Emergency Health Services working party and the Swanage Area Forum are collecting people’s stories about the Purbeck Paramedic Car and how it has helped them. These can be sent to Councillor Debby Monkhouse via email cllrmonkhouse@swanagecouncillors.uk or Chair of the Swanage Area Forum, Mel Norris via email melvyn.norris@icloud.com

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