Following a huge community response to the Lib Dems’ petition for a second 24-hour ambulance for Berwick, Health Minister Norman Lamb has been asked to come and meet patients in Northumberland.
Both emergency and non-emergency (patient) transport have been in the spotlight lately. Patients were affected when patient transport services tried to reduce the level of support given to those unable to make their way to hospital using private vehicles or public transport.
Julie Pörksen said: “I have previously raised the issues facing people in accessing health and care services in Northumberland with Health Minister Norman Lamb, after hearing of people needing to travel from Berwick to Blyth to access respite care.
“Now I have asked him to come and see for himself and listen to patients. It is essential that Ministers who are in charge of the NHS really understand how distance in rural areas like Northumberland can affect the service for patients. I will be asking him to make sure that our rights to access quality NHS services are maintained.”
Ambulances have also been under the spotlight in the Glendale area, with Wooler Parish Council repeatedly raising concerns about the cover provided in the area.
Thomas Birdsey, operations manager for the North East Ambulance Service’s North of Tyne Division, spoke to Wooler parish councillors at their March meeting. He stressed that while service controllers would move their units around, between Belford, Berwick and Wooler, there would never be an area left without cover.
Councillors initially raised fears that Wooler crews were being moved to cover Berwick teams’ meal breaks late last year.
Mr Birdsey acknowledged that, during the very busy period for ambulance crews between Christmas and New Year, which was known as ‘clinical escalation’, some crews had been moved in this way. However, that practice had been stopped. He explained that the only reason for crews to be moved from their area now is to cover other ambulances who are responding to calls, or transporting patients to Wansbeck or Borders General Hospital.