Delight as plans dropped to change ambulance service

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CONTROVERSIAL proposals to change the ambulance service in north Northumberland have been dropped.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) was proposing to withdraw the daytime 12-hour shift ambulance from Berwick, leaving the town and surrounding district with a single 24-hour cover ambulance.

The dual-crewed emergency ambulance in Belford would have remained, as would the rapid response vehicle paramedic service in Wooler, with support provided by two new urgent care vehicles based in Alnwick.

The plans were met with stiff opposition from residents in Berwick as well as the outlying communities.

The parish councils in Wooler and Seahouses had both condemned the plans at recent meetings too, fearing their communities could be left without proper emergency cover.

But yesterday the NEAS announced it was dropping the proposals after additional funding was agreed to retain the service.

Simon Featherstone, NEAS chief executive, said: “This extra funding represents a significant investment in our emergency service to bring our rural areas up to the same level of performance as our urban regions.

“We also recognise how valuable this increased funding is at a time when there is so much pressure on the public purse.

“Both our NHS commissioners and us have listened to the views given in response to our current consultation on our A&E ambulance review and this has allowed us to maintain the existing services we have in Berwick, Alnwick and Haltwhistle while allowing us to invest in more resources in other parts of Northumberland and County Durham where 999 demand continues to increase.”

North Northumberland MP Sir Alan Beith, who ran a petition against the changes, said: “I am delighted that ambulance chiefs have listened to the very strong views of people in and around Berwick upon Tweed. This is a victory for common sense and the safety of the public.”